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Title: The Chief Mate's Yarns - Twelve Tales of the Sea
Author: Hains, T. Jenkins (Thornton Jenkins)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  THE

  CHIEF MATE'S YARNS

  _TWELVE TALES OF THE SEA_

  BY

  CAPT. MAYN CLEW GARNETT

  [Illustration]

  G. W. DILLINGHAM COMPANY
  PUBLISHERS      NEW YORK



  COPYRIGHT, 1911, 1912, BY
  STREET & SMITH

  COPYRIGHT, 1912, BY
  G. W. DILLINGHAM COMPANY

  _The White Ghost of Disaster_



CONTENTS


                                     PAGE

  THE WHITE GHOST OF DISASTER           5

  THE LIGHT AHEAD                      42

  THE WRECK OF THE "RATHBONE"          76

  THE AFTER BULKHEAD                  105

  CAPTAIN JUNARD                      123

  IN THE WAKE OF THE ENGINE           148

  IN THE HULL OF THE "HERALDINE"      172

  A TWO-STRANDED YARN--PART I         198

  A TWO-STRANDED YARN--PART II        234

  AT THE END OF THE DRAG-ROPE         263

  PIRATES TWAIN                       279

  THE JUDGMENT OF MEN                 310

  ON GOING TO SEA                     333



THE WHITE GHOST OF DISASTER


We had been sitting in at the game for more than an hour, and no life
had entered it. The thoughts of all composing that little group of five
in the most secluded corner of the ship's smoking room were certainly
not on the game, and three aces lay down to fours up.

The morose and listless ship's officer out of a berth, although he
spoke little--if at all--seemed to put a spell of uneasiness and unrest
on the party. The others did not know him or his history; but his looks
spelled disaster and misfortune.

At last Charlie Spangler, the noted journalist, keen for a story or
two, threw down his cards, exclaiming: "Let's quit. None of us is less
uneasy than the rest of the ship's passengers."

"Yes," chimed in Arthur Linch, the noted stock-broker. "We have
endeavored to banish the all-pervading thought, 'will the ship arrive
safely without being wrecked,' and have failed miserably. Cards will
not do it." This seemed to express the sentiments of everybody except
the morose mariner, whose thoughts nobody could read or fathom. He sat
there, deep in his chair, gazing at a scene or scenes none of us could
see or appreciate.

"Well! Since we cannot take our thoughts off 'shipwreck,' we may as
well discuss the subject and ease our minds," added the journalist
again, still hot on the scent of the possible story which he felt that
the ship's officer hoarded.

The mariner, however, did not respond to this, and continued with his
memories, apparently oblivious of our presence.

Under the leadership of the journalist the discussion waxed warm for
some time, until the stock-broker, ever solicitous for the welfare of
the stock-market and conforming his opinions thereto, exclaimed loudly:
"The officers and the crew were not responsible for the collision with
the berg. It was an 'act of God!' and as such we are daily taking
chances with it. What will be, will be. We cannot escape Destiny!"

"Destiny be damned!" came like a thunderbolt from the heretofore
silent mariner, and we all looked to see the face now full of rage and
passion. "What do you know of the sea, you land pirate? What do you
know of sea dangers and responsibility for the safety of human lives?
Man! you're crazy. There is no such thing as Destiny at sea. A seaman
knows what to expect when he takes chances. If you call that an 'act of
God,' you deserve to have been there and submitted to it."

The face of Charlie Spangler was glowing. His heart beat so fast when
he heard this sea clam open up, that he was afraid it might overwork
and stop. "Our friend is right!" he exclaimed. "I infer that he speaks
from knowledge and experience. We are hardly qualified to discuss such
matters properly.

"You have something on your mind, friend. Unburden it to us. We are
sympathetic, you know. Our position here makes us so," saying which,
Spangler filled the mariner's half-empty glass and looked at him with
sympathy streaming out of his trained eyes. We all nodded our assent.

Having fortified himself with the contents of the glass before him, the
mariner spoke: "Yes, gentlemen, I am going to speak from knowledge and
experience. It was my luck to be aboard of the vessel which had the
shortest of lives, but which will live in the memory of man for many a
year.

"It is my misfortune to be one of its surviving officers. I am going
to give you the facts as they happened this last time, and a few other
times besides. It is the experiences through which I have passed that
make me wish I had gone down with the last one. I must now live on with
memories, indelibly stamped on my brain, which I would gladly forget.
Your attention, gentlemen--"

       *       *       *       *       *

Captain Brownson came upon the bridge. It was early morning, and the
liner was tearing through a smooth sea in about forty-three north
latitude. The sun had not yet risen, but the gray of the coming
daylight showed a heaving swell that rolled with the steadiness that
told of a long stretch of calm water behind it. The men of the
morning watch showed their pale faces white with that peculiar pallor
which comes from the loss of the healthful sleep between midnight and
morning. It was the second mate's watch, and that officer greeted the
commander as he came to the bridge rail where the mate stood staring
into the gray ahead.

"See anything?" asked the master curtly.

"No, sir--but I smell it--feel it," said the mate, without turning his
head.

"What?" asked Brownson.

"Don't you feel it?--the chill, the--well, it's ice, sir--ice, if I
know anything."

"Ice?" snarled the captain. "You're crazy! What's the matter with you?"

"Oh, very well--you asked me--I told you--that's all."

The captain snorted. He disliked the second officer exceedingly. Mr.
Smith had been sent him by the company at the request of the manager of
the London office. He had always picked his own men, and he resented
the office picking them for him. Besides, he had a nephew, a passenger
aboard, who was an officer out of a berth.

"What the devil do they know of a man, anyhow! I'm the one responsible
for him. I'm the one, then, to choose him. They won't let me shift
blame if anything happens, and yet they sent me a man I know nothing of
except that he is young and strong. I'll wake him up some if he stays
here." So he had commented to Mr. Wylie, the chief mate. Mr. Wylie had
listened, thought over the matter, and nodded his head sagely.

"Sure," he vouchsafed; "sure thing." That was as much as any one
ever got out of Wylie. He was not a talkative mate. Yet when he knew
Smith better, he retailed the master's conversation to him during a
spell of generosity engendered by the donation of a few highballs by
Macdowell, the chief engineer. Smith thanked him--and went his way
as before, trying to do the best he could. He did not shirk duty on
that account. Wylie insisted that the captain was right. A master was
responsible, and it was always customary for him to pick his men as far
as possible. Besides, as Wylie had learned from Macdowell, Brownson had
a nephew in view that would have filled the berth about right--so Wylie
thought--and Smith was a nuisance. Smith had taken it all in good part,
and smiled. He liked Wylie.

Brownson sniffed the air hungrily as he stood there at the bridge rail.
The air was chilly, but it was always chilly in that latitude even in
summer.

"How does she head?" he asked savagely of the man at the steam-steering
gear. The man spoke through the pilot-house window in a monotone:

"West--three degrees south, sir."

"That's west--one south by standard?" snapped Brownson.

"Yes, sir," said Smith.

"Let her go west--two south by binnacle--and mark the time accurately,"
ordered Brownson.

He would shift her a bit. The cool air seemed to come from the
northward. It was as if a door in an ice box were suddenly opened and
the cold air within let out in a cold, damp mass. A thin haze covered
the sea. The side wash rolled away noisily, and disappeared into the
mist a few fathoms from the ship's side. It seemed to thicken as the
minutes passed.

Brownson was nervous. He went inside the pilot house and spoke to the
engineer through the tube leading to the engine room.

"How is she going?"

"Two hundred and ten, sir; never less than two and five the watch."

"Well, she's going too almighty fast--shut her down to one hundred,"
snapped Brownson. "She's been doing twenty-two knots--it's too
fast--too fast, anyhow, in this weather. Ten knots will do until the
sun scoffs off this mist. Shut her down."

The slowing engines eased their vibrations, and the side wash rolled
less noisily. There was a strange stillness over the sea. The silence
grew as the headway subsided.

The captain listened intently. He felt something.

There is always that strange something that a seaman feels in the
presence of great danger when awake. It has never been explained. But
all good--really good--masters have felt it; can tell you of it if they
will. It is uncanny, but it is as true as gospel. The second officer
had felt it in the air, felt it in his nerves. He felt--_ice_. It was
danger.

Smith stood there watching the haze that seemed to deepen rather than
disperse as the morning grew. The men turned out and the hose was
started, the decks were sluiced down, and the gang with the squeegees
followed. Two bells struck--five o'clock. Smith strained his gaze
straight into the haze ahead. He fixed and refixed his glasses--a pair
of powerful lenses of fifteen lines. He had bought them for fifty
dollars, and always kept them near him while on watch.

A man came up the bridge steps.

"Shall I send up your coffee, sir?" he asked.

"Yes, send it up," said Smith, in a whisper. He was listening.

Something sounded out there in the haze. It was a strange, vibrating
sound, a sort of whispering murmur, soft and low, like the far-away
notes of a harp. Then it ceased. Smith looked at the captain who stood
within the pilot-house window gazing down at the men at work on the
deck below. The noise of the rushing water from the hose and their low
tones seemed to annoy him. They wore rubber boots, and their footsteps
were silent; but he gruffly ordered the bos'n to make them "shut up."

"Better slow her down, sir--there's ice somewhere about here," said the
second mate anxiously. He was thinking of the thousand and more souls
below and the millions in cargo values.

"Who's running this ship--me or you?" snarled Brownson savagely.

It was an unnecessary remark, wholly uncalled for. Smith flushed
under his tan and pallor. He had seldom been spoken to like that. He
would have to stand it; but he would hunt a new ship as soon as he
came ashore again. It was bad enough to be treated like a boy; but to
be talked to that way before the men made it impossible, absolutely
impossible. It meant the end of discipline at once. A man would retail
it, more would repeat it, and--then--Smith turned away from the bridge
rail in utter disgust. He was furious.

"Blast the ship!" he muttered, as he turned away and gazed aft. His
interest was over, entirely over. He would not have heard a gun fired
at that moment, so furious was the passion at the unmerited insolence
from his commander.

And then, as if to give insult to injury, Brownson called down the tube:

"Full speed ahead--give her all she'll do--I'm tired of loafing around
here all the morning." Then he rang up the telegraph, and the sudden
vibrations told of a giant let loose below.

The _Admiral_ started ahead slowly. She was a giant liner, a ship of
eight hundred feet in length. It took some moments to get headway upon
that vast hull. But she started, and in a few minutes the snoring of
the bow wave told of a tearing speed. She was doing twenty-two and a
half knots an hour, or more than twenty-five miles, the speed of a
train of cars.

The under steward came up the bridge steps with the coffee. Smith took
his cup and drank it greedily, almost savagely. He was much hurt. His
feelings had been roughly handled. Yet he had not even answered the
captain back. He took his place at the bridge rail and gazed straight
ahead into the gray mist. He saw nothing, felt nothing, but the pain
of his insult.

"Let him run the ship to hell and back," he said to himself.

There was a puff of colder air than usual. A chill as of death itself
came floating over the silent ocean. A man on lookout stood staring
straight into the mist ahead, and then sang out:

"Something right ahead, sir," he yelled in a voice that carried like
the roar of a gun.

Brownson just seized the lever shutting the compartments, swung it,
jammed it hard over, and screamed:

"Stop her--stop her--hard over your wheel--hard over----"

His voice ended in a vibrating screech that sounded wild, weird,
uncanny in that awful silence. A hundred men stopped in their stride,
or work, paralyzed at the tones coming from the bridge.

And then came the impact.

With a grinding, smashing roar as of thousands of tons coming together,
the huge liner plunged headlong into the iceberg that rose grim and
silent right ahead, towering over her in spite of her great height. The
shock was terrific, and the grinding, thundering crash of falling tons
of ice, coupled with the rending of steel plates and solid planks, made
chaos of all sound.

The _Admiral_ bit in, dug, plowed, kept on going, going, and the
whole forward part of her almost disappeared into the wall of white.
A thousand tons of huge flakes slammed and slid down her decks,
burying her to the fore hatch in the smother. A thousand tons more
crashed, slid, and plunged down the slopes of the icy mountain and
hurled themselves into the sea with giant splashes, sending torrents
of water as high as the bridge rail. The men who had been forward were
swept away by the avalanche. Many were never seen again. And then, with
reversed engines, she finally came to a dead stop, with her bows jammed
a hundred feet deep in the ice wall of the berg.

After that it was panic. All discipline seemed to end in the shock
and struggle. Brownson howled and stormed from the bridge, and Smith
shouted orders and sprang down to enforce them. The chief mate came
on deck in his underclothes and passed the word to man the boats. A
thousand passengers jammed the companionway and strove with panic and
inhuman fury to reach the deck.

One man clad in a night robe gained the outside of the press, and,
running swiftly along the deck, flitted like a ghost over the rail, and
disappeared into the sea. He had gone crazy, violently insane in the
panic.

Brownson tied down the siren cord, and the roar shook the atmosphere.
The tremendous tones rose above the din of screaming men and cursing
seamen; and then the master called down to the heart of the ship, the
engine room.

"Is she going?" he asked.

"Water coming in like through a tunnel," came the response. "Nearly up
to the grates now----"

That was all. The man left the tube to rush on deck, and the captain
knew the forward bulkheads had gone; had either jammed or burst under
that terrific impact. The ship was going down.

Brownson stood upon the bridge and gazed down at the human tide below
him. Men fought furiously for places in the small boats. The fireroom
crew came on deck and mingled with the passengers. The coal dust showed
upon their white faces, making them seem strange beings from an inferno
that was soon to be abolished. They strove for places in the lifeboats
and hurled the weaker passengers about recklessly. Some, on the other
hand, helped the women. One man dragged two women with him into a boat,
kicking, twisting, and roaring like a lion. He was a big fellow with a
red beard, and Brownson watched him. The mate struck him over the head
with a hand spike for refusing to get out of the boat, and his interest
in things ended at once and forever.

The crew, on the whole, behaved well. Officers and men tried to keep
some sort of discipline. Finally six boats went down alongside into
the sea, and were promptly swarmed by the crowds above, who either
slid down the falls or jumped overboard and climbed in from the sides.
The sea was as still as a lake; only the slight swell heaved it. Great
fields of floating particles of ice from the berg floated about, and
those who were drenched in the spray shivered with the cold.

The _Admiral_, running at twenty-two knots an hour, had struck straight
into the wall of an iceberg that reached as far as the eye could see in
the haze. It towered at least three hundred feet in the air, showing
that its depth was colossal, probably at least half a mile. It was a
giant ice mountain that had broken adrift from its northern home, and,
drifting southward, had survived the heat of summer and the breaking of
the sea upon its base.

Smith had felt its dread presence, felt its proximity long before he
had come to close quarters. The chill in the air, the peculiar feeling
of danger, the icy breath of death--all had told him of a danger that
was near. And yet Brownson had scoffed at him, railed at his intuition
and sense. Upon the captain the whole blame of the disaster must fall
if Smith told.

The second officer almost smiled as he struggled with his boat.

"The pig-headed fool!" he muttered between his set teeth. "The
murdering monster--he's done it now! He's killed himself, and a
thousand people along with him----"

Smith fought savagely for the discipline of his boat. His men had
rushed to their stations at the first call. The deck was beginning
to slant dangerously as the falls were slacked off and the lifeboat
lowered into the sea. Smith stood in the press about him and grew
strangely calm. The action was good for him, good for the burning fury
that had warped him, scorched him like a hot blast while he had stood
silently upon the bridge and taken the insults of his commander. Women
pleaded with him for places in the boat. Men begged and took hold of
him. One lady, half clothed, dropped upon her knees and, holding his
hand, which hung at his side, prayed to him as if he were a deity, a
being to whom all should defer. He flung her off savagely.

Bareheaded now, coatless, and with his shirt ripped, he stood there,
and saw his men pass down sixteen women into his craft; pass them down
without comment or favor, age or condition. Thirty souls went into his
boat before he sprang into the falls and slid down himself. A dozen men
tried to follow him, but he shoved off, and they went into the sea. His
men got their oars out and rowed off a short distance.

Muttering, praying, and crying, the passengers in his boat huddled
themselves in her bottom. He spoke savagely to them, ordered them under
pain of death to sit down. One man, who shivered as he spoke, insisted
upon crawling about and shifting his position. Smith struck him over
the head, knocking him senseless. Another, a woman, must stand upon the
thwarts, to get as far away as possible from the dread and icy element
about her. He swung his fist upon her jaw, and she went whimpering down
into the boat's bottom, lying there and sobbing softly.

Furiously swearing at the herd of helpless passengers who endangered
his boat at every movement, he swung the craft's head about and
stood gazing at his ship. After a little while the crowd became more
manageable, and he saw he could keep them aboard without the certainty
of upsetting the craft He had just been debating which of them he
would throw overboard to save the rest; save them from their own
struggling and fighting for their own selfish ends. He was as cold
as steel, hard, inflexible. His men knew him for a ship's officer
who would maintain his place under all hazards, and they watched him
furtively, and were ready to obey him to the end without question.

"Oh, the monster, the murdering monster!" he muttered again and again.

His eyes were fixed upon the bridge. High up there stood Brownson--the
captain who had sent his liner to her death, with hundreds of
passengers.

Brownson stood calmly watching the press gain and lose places in the
boats. Two boats actually overloaded rolled over under the immense
load of human freight. The others did not stop to pick them up. They
had enough to do to save themselves. The ship was sinking. That was
certain. She must have struck so hard that even the 'midship bulkheads
gave way, or were so twisted out of place that the doors failed. The
chief engineer came below him and glanced up.

As he did so, a tremendous, roaring blast of steam blew the
superstructure upward. The boilers had gone. Macdowell just gave
Brownson a look. That was all. Then he rushed for a boat.

Brownson grinned; actually smiled at him.

The man at the wheel asked permission to go.

"I'm a married man, sir--it's no use of me staying here any longer," he
ventured.

"Go--go to the devil!" said Brownson, without interest. The man fled.

Brownson stopped giving any more orders. In silence he gazed down
at the press of human beings, watching, debating within himself the
chances they had of getting away from that scene of death and horror.

The decks grew more and more steep. The liner was settling by the
head and to starboard. She was even now twisting, rolling over; and
the motion brought down thousands of blocks of ice from the berg. The
engines had long since stopped. She still held her head against the ice
wall; but it would give her no support. She was slipping away--down to
her grave below.

Brownson gazed back over the decks. He watched the crowd impersonally,
and it seemed strange to him that so much valuable fabric should go to
the bottom so quickly. The paint was so clean and bright, the brass
was so shiny. The whole structure was so thoroughly clean, neat, and
in proper order. It was absurd. There he was standing upon that bridge
where he had stood so often, and here below him were hundreds of dying
people--people like rats in a trap.

"Good Heaven--is it real?"

He was sure he was not awake. It must be a dream. Then the terrible
knowledge came back upon him like a stroke; a blow that stopped his
heart. It was the death of his ship he was watching--the death of his
ship and of many of his passengers. Suddenly Brownson saw the boat of
the second mate, and that officer standing looking up at him.

The master thought he saw the officer's lips move. He wondered what the
man thought, what he would say. He had insulted the officer, made him a
clown before the men. He knew the second mate would not spare him. He
knew the second mate would testify that he had given warning of ice ten
minutes before they struck. He also knew that the man at the wheel had
heard him, as had the steward who brought up the coffee, and one or two
others who were near.

No, there must be no investigation of his, Brownson's, blame in the
matter. The master dared not face that. He looked vacantly at Smith.
The officer stood gazing straight at him.

The liner suddenly shifted, leaned to starboard, heeled far over,
and her bows slipped from the berg, sinking down clear to her decks,
clear down until the seas washed to the foot of her superstructure
just below Brownson. Masses of ice fell from her into the sea. The
grinding, splashing noise awoke the panic again among the remaining
passengers and crew. They strove with maniac fury to get the rafts and
other stuff that might float over the side. Two boats drew away full
to the gunwales with people. The air below began to make that peculiar
whistling sound that tells of pressure--pressure upon the vitals of the
ship. She was going down.

Brownson still stood gazing at his second mate.

Smith met the master's eye with a steady look Then he suddenly forgot
himself and raised his hand.

"Oh, you murdering rat, you cowardly scoundrel, you devil!" he roared
out.

Brownson saw the movement of the hand, saw that it was vindictive,
furious, and full of menace. He could not hear the words.

He smiled at the officer, raised his hand, and waved it in reply. It
seemed to make the mate crazy. He gesticulated wildly, swore like a
maniac--but Brownson did not hear him. He only knew what he was doing.

He turned away, gave one more look over the sinking ship.

"She's going now--and so am I," he muttered.

Then he went slowly into his chart room, opened a drawer, and took out
a revolver that he always kept there. He stood at the open door and
cocked the weapon. He looked into its muzzle, and saw the bullet that
would end his life when he pulled the trigger.

He almost shuddered. It was so unreal. He could not quite do it. He
gazed again at the second mate. He knew the officer was watching him,
knew Smith would not believe he had the nerve to end the thing then and
there. It amused him slightly in a grim sort of way. Why, he _must_
die. That was certain. He could never face his own family and friends
after what he had done. As to getting another ship--that was too absurd
to think of.

The form of a woman showed in the boat. She had risen from the bottom,
where the blow of the officer had felled her in her frenzy. Brownson
saw her, recognized her as his niece, the sister of the man he had
wished to put in Smith's place. It was for his own nephew he had
insulted his officer, had caused him to relax and lose the interest
that made navigation safe, in the hope that Smith would leave and let
his relative get the berth.

He wondered if Smith knew. He stood there with the revolver in his hand
watching for some sign from his second officer. Smith gazed at him in
fury, apparently not noticing the girl whom he had just before knocked
into the boat's bottom to keep order. She stood up. Smith roughly
pushed her down again. Brownson was sure now--he felt that Smith knew
all.

But he put the revolver in his pocket. He would not fire yet.

The ship was listing heavily, and the cries of the passengers were
dying out. All who had been able to get away had gone, somehow, and
only a few desperate men and women, who could not swim and who were
cool enough to realize that swimming would but prolong an agony that
was better over quickly, huddled aft at the taffrail. They would take
the last second left them, the last instant of life, and suffer a
thousand deaths every second to get it. It was absurd. Brownson pitied
them.

Many of these women were praying and talking to their men, who held
them in a last embrace. One young woman was clinging closely to a
young man, and they were apparently not suffering terror. A look of
peacefulness was upon the faces of both. They were lovers, and were
satisfied to die together; and the thought of it made them satisfied.
Brownson wondered at this. They were young enough and strong enough to
make a fight for life.

A whistling roar, arose above all other sounds. The siren had ceased,
and Brownson knew the air was rushing from below. The ship would drop
in a moment. He grasped the pistol again. He dreaded that last plunge,
that drop into the void below. The thought held him a little. The ocean
was always so blue out there, so clear and apparently bottomless, a
great void of water. He wondered at the depth, what kind of a dark bed
would receive that giant fabric, the work of so many human hands. And
then he wondered at his own end there. His own end? What nonsense! It
was unreal. Death was always for others. It had never been for him. He
had seen men die. It was not for him yet. He would not believe it. He
would awaken soon, and the steward would bring him his coffee.

Then he caught the eye of Smith again in that boat waiting for the
end out there. His heart gave an immense jolt, began beating wildly.
The ship heeled more and more. The ice crashed and plunged from her
forward. Brownson was awakening to the real at last. He felt it in
those extra heartbeats; knew he must hurry it. Then he wondered what
the papers would say; whether they would call him a coward, afraid
to face the inevitable. He hoped they would not. But, then, what
difference would it all make, anyhow--to him? He was dead. His interest
was over. What difference would it make whether he was a coward or
not? Men knew him for what he was, but he existed no longer. He was
dead.

While he stood there with these thoughts in his mind, his nerve half
lacking to end the thing, it seemed to him it was lasting for an
eternity. He was growing tired of it all. He turned away again and
entered the chart room.

His cat crawled from somewhere and rubbed its tail and side against his
leg. Then the animal jumped to the table, and he stroked it; actually
stroked it while Smith watched him, and swore at him for a cold-blooded
scoundrel.

The ship sank to her superstructure. Her stern rose high in the air.
It was now impossible to stand on deck without holding on. Some of the
remaining passengers slid off with parting shrieks. They dropped into
that icy sea.

Brownson felt the end coming now, and turned again to the doorway,
looking straight at his second mate. Smith was trying to quell the
movement among his crowd which was endangering his boat again.

The captain clutched the door jamb and watched. Then the ship began
to sink. He could not make up his mind to jump clear. There was Smith
looking at him. He dared not be saved when hundreds were being killed.
No, he could not make that jump and swim to a boat under that officer's
gaze. And yet at the last moment he was about to try it. Panic was
upon him in a way that he hardly realized. He simply could not face
the black gulf he was dropping into with his health and full physical
powers still with him. It was nature to make a last effort for his
life. Then, before he could make the jump overboard, he saw Smith again
shaking his hand at him and howling curses.

He pulled the pistol. An ashy whiteness came over his face. Smith saw
it. He stopped swearing; stopped in his furious denunciation of the man
who had caused so much destruction. He also saw the pistol plainly, and
wondered at the captain's nerve.

"You are afraid, you dog--you are afraid--you daren't do it, you
murdering rat!" he yelled.

The men in the boat were all gazing up at the chart-house door where
the form of their commander stood.

"He's going to shoot, sir," said the stroke oarsman.

"He's afraid--he won't dare!" howled Smith.

Brownson seemed to hear now. The silence was coming again, and the
sounds on the sinking ship were dying out.

Brownson gazed straight at his second officer. Smith saw him raise the
pistol, saw a bit of blue smoke, saw his commander sink down to the
deck and disappear. A cracking and banging of ice blocks blended with
the report, and the ship raised her stern higher. Then she plunged
straight downward, straight as a plummet for the bottom of the Atlantic
Ocean. Smith knew his captain had gone to his end; that he was a dead
man at last.

He stood watching the mighty swirl where the liner had gone under. The
men in his boat were also looking. They had seen all.

"Look--look!" shrieked a passenger. "The captain has shot himself!"

"She's gone--gone for good!" cried another. "Oh, the pity of it all!"

Smith did not reply. He was still gazing at the apparition he had
seen in that chart-house door; the figure of the man shooting himself
through the head. It had chilled his anger, staggered him. The awful
nerve of it all, the horror----

"Hadn't we better see if we can get one or two more in her, sir?" asked
the stroke oarsman. "I see a woman swimming there."

Smith did not answer. He seemed not to hear. Then he suddenly awoke to
his surroundings. He was alive to the occasion, the desperate situation.

"Give way port--ease starboard--swing her out of that swirl--hard on
that port oar," he ordered.

       *       *       *       *       *

Smith looked around for the other boats. The chief mate's was in sight,
showing dimly through the haze. She was full of people, crowded, and
it was a wonder how she floated with the screaming, panic-stricken
passengers, who fought for places in her in spite of Wylie's oaths and
entreaties. Smith glared.

"The fools!" he muttered. "If they would only think of something
besides their own hides for a second. But they won't. They never do.
It's nature, and when the trouble comes they fight like cats."

He steered away from what he saw was trouble. He would not pick up the
participants in the scuffle when they overturned the boat. He was full
up now, carrying all his boat would hold. She rocked dangerously with
every shifting of the crowd, that still trembled and scuffled for more
comfort in her. Her gunwales were only a few inches above the sea, and
it might come on to blow at any minute.

"Sit down!" he roared to the old man, who would shift and squirm about
in the boat, interfering with the stroke oarsman, who jammed his oar
into the small of the fellow's back, regardless of the pain it caused.

"Sit down or I'll throw you overboard! Do you hear?"

The old man whimpered and struggled for a more comfortable position;
and Smith reached over with the tiller and slammed him heavily across
the shoulders, knocking him over.

"If you get up again I'll kill you, you cowardly old nuisance!" he said
savagely.

The old man lay quiet and trembling. A young woman upbraided Smith for
brutality and talked volubly.

"Talk, you little fool!" he said. "Talk all you want to, but don't you
get moving about in this boat, or I'll break your pretty neck."

"You are a monster," said the girl.

"Yes; but if I'd had my way, you would have been safe and sound below
in your room instead of out here in this ice," snapped Smith.

The girl quieted down, and then spoke to the young woman, who lay in
the bottom of the boat where she had fallen when Smith struck her down.
She was the niece of Captain Brownson.

"I never heard of such utter brutality in my life," she said.

Miss Billings, who had first found fault, agreed with her.

"Was your brother aboard, Miss Roberts?" asked Smith.

"Yes, he was--I think he went in the mate's boat--why do you ask?"

"Oh, I was just thinking--that's all. He would have been second officer
next voyage. That seemed to be fixed, didn't it?"

"Yes; and if it had, this thing would not have happened," said the girl.

"No; probably it would not," said the second officer sadly. He spoke,
for the first time, with less passion. He thought of the manner they
had taken to get his berth, the insults, the infamy of the whole thing.

"No; I don't suppose you knew how it was done," said he, half aloud.

The girl sat up. She had stopped whimpering from the blow.

Smith watched her for a few minutes while he swung the boat's head for
the gray mist ahead where he knew lay the iceberg. He thought the face
pretty, the figure well rounded and perfectly shaped. He felt sorry he
had used such harshness in making her behave in the boat. But there
was no time for silly sentiment. That boat must be manned properly
and kept afloat, and the slapping of a girl was nothing at all. She
might start a sudden movement and endanger the lives of all. Absolute
trimming of the craft was the only way she could be safe to carry the
immense load. The men rowed slowly and apparently without object. Smith
headed the boat for the ice.

A long wall of peculiar pale blueness suddenly burst from the haze
close to them. It was the iceberg. He swung the boat so that she would
not strike it, and followed along the ragged side.

The two young women gazed up at the pale blueness caused by the fresh
water in the ice. It was a beautiful sight. The pinnacles were sharp
as needles, and they pierced the mist in white points, tapering down
to the white-and-blue sheen at the base, where the ocean roared and
surged in a deep-toned murmur. Great pieces broke from the mass while
they gazed. Smith steered out and sheered the boat's head away from the
dangerous wall. It was grand but deadly. A large block lay right ahead.

"Ease starboard," he said.

The craft swung clear. The mist from the cold ocean thinned a little.
Right ahead was a flat plateau, a raised field of ice joining the berg.
It sloped down suddenly to the sea, and the swell broke upon it as upon
a rocky shore. A long, flat floe stretched away from the higher part.
It was a field of at least a half mile in length. The huge berg reached
a full half mile further. The whole was evidently broken from some
giant glacier in the Arctic.

Smith debated his chances within himself. He scorned to ask his men,
for he had seen much ice before in his seagoing. To remain near the
berg was to miss a ship possibly; but to row far off was to miss fresh
water. He had come away without either food or water, owing to the
furious panic. He knew very well that, within a few hours at most, the
famished folk in his boat would rave for a drink. They must have water,
at least, even if they must do without food.

The iceberg lay right in the path of ships, as his own had proved, the
liner running upon the great circle from New York to Liverpool. There
was the certainty of meeting, or of at least coming close to a vessel
shortly, for others of his line would run the same circle, the same
course, as he had run it before.

With giant liners going at twenty-five knots speed, they usually kept
pretty close to the same line, for there were few currents that were
not accurately known over that route. The Gulf Stream was a fixed unit
almost; and in calm weather other ships would certainly reckon with
accuracy to meet its set. If he rowed far off the line, then he might
or might not meet a ship. If he did not, then there would soon be death
and terror in that boat.

He decided to keep close to the berg, and ordered his men to give way
slowly while he navigated the field and skirted it, keeping just far
enough out to avoid the dangerous breaks and floating pieces.

The morning wore away, and the occupants of his boat began to grow
restless. They had been cramped up for several hours now, and they were
not used to sitting in a cold, open boat in a thick, misty haze without
food or water. The old man began to complain. Several women began to
ask for water. One woman with three children begged him to go ashore
and get them a piece of ice to allay their thirst. Smith saw that the
effects of the wild excitement were now being felt, and the inevitable
thirst that must follow was at hand.

He headed the boat for a low part of the field.

"Easy on your oars," he commanded. The boat slid gently upon the
sloping ice.

"Jump out, Sam," he said to the bow oarsman. "Jump out and take the
painter with you." The man did so, hauling the line far up the floe.

One by one the rest were allowed to climb out of the boat. They
gathered upon a part of the field that rose a full ten feet above the
sea; and there they began trying to get small pieces of ice to eat. It
was as salt as the sea itself, and they were disappointed, spitting it
out. Smith took a man along with him and started for the berg. The boat
was left in charge of four men, who held her off the floe.

Within half an hour, the whole crowd had managed to get fresh-water
ice. The second officer kept them close to the boat and watched for
any signs of change in the weather. They were allowed to go a short
distance and get the stiffness from their limbs by exercise.

"I am very tired and cold. Can I get back into the boat?" asked Miss
Roberts, after she had been stamping her feet upon the floe for half an
hour.

Smith looked at her. The print of his hand was plainly marked upon her
face. He felt ashamed.

"Yes, you can go aboard," he said; and then, as if in apology for what
he had done, he explained: "You must keep quiet in that boat, you know.
You must not try to walk about, for it endangers the whole crowd. You
understand, don't you?"

"Yes, I'll try and keep still, but my feet get so cold and I grow so
stiff."

"Well, you must forgive me for having used you roughly. I had to do it.
There was no time for politeness in that panic." He came close to her.
His eyes held a light she feared greatly, and she shrank back.

"I hope it is not a time now for politeness," she said, with meaning.

"Oh, I wouldn't hurt you," said Smith.

"I hope not," said the girl.

Miss Billings asked if she could go aboard also. Smith allowed her, and
called the boat in.

The two girls climbed into the boat, and the older women commented
spiritedly upon the favors of youth. Smith shut them up with an oath.
The woman with the three children huddled them back aboard as the ice
caused them to shiver with the cold on their little feet. They had
neglected to put on their shoes. The women, for the most part, were
only half dressed, and few, if any, had on shoes. They had rushed on
deck at the first alarm, and the time allowed for dressing was short.
The ship had gone down within fifteen minutes from the first impact
with the berg.

Smith walked to and fro upon the ice for some time. The sun shone for a
few moments, but was quickly hidden again in the haze.

A gentle breeze began to blow from the southward, and the haze broke up
a little. Smith began to get nervous about the ice, and finally ordered
all his people back into the boat, where they huddled and shivered,
hungry but no longer thirsty.

During all these hours there had been no further sign of the other
boats. Smith knew that at least ten of them had gone clear of the
sinking ship. The chief mate's boat was the one he was most interested
in at present. He wanted to see the man who had indirectly caused the
disaster; the man whom Brownson was playing up for the berth of second
officer. The thing was a reality now since the tragedy. Before it, he
had looked upon the matter as slight indeed.

The second mate headed his boat out and kept clear of the drifting
ice; but always under the lee of the berg, which offered considerable
shelter from both wind and sea, which were rising. The danger of
floating ice was not great during daylight, and he swung the small boat
close and rode easily, keeping her dry and clear of water. He dreaded
the plunging he must inevitably undergo in the open ocean with that
load of women.

With the increasing breeze, the haze lifted entirely until the horizon
showed clear all around. There was no sign of the other boats. Smith
knew then that they had steered off to the southward to avoid the ice.
As the sea began to grow, the masses of ice broke adrift with distinct
and loud reports, the plunging pieces from the higher parts making
considerable noise above the deepening roar of the surge upon the base.

At three in the afternoon, Smith began to feel nervous. The ice was
breaking up fast, and immense pieces were floating in the sea which
bore them toward him. They grew more and more dangerous to the small
craft, and the officer headed away from the vicinity and sought the
open at last.

By five that afternoon, when the light was fading, he was riding a
heavy sea, that grew rapidly and rolled quickly, the combers breaking
badly and keeping two men busy bailing the boat. She made water fast.

The night came on with all its terrors, and the small boat was in great
danger. Smith tried his best to keep her headed to the sea, which
was now running high and strong. His men began to weaken under the
continuous strain; and by ten that night they could no longer hold the
boat's head to the sea. She fell off once or twice, and nearly filled
when in the trough. There was little to do but make a last effort to
hold her. The steady second officer came to his last resource.

There were five oars in the boat. Four of these he lashed into a drag
by fastening two of them in the shape of a cross, and then lashing the
other two across the end of the cross. He had a spare line of some
length in the boat; and with this bent to the painter, he had a cable
of at least twenty fathoms, which he led over the bows and to the drag.
The drag was weighted with some chain that lay forward. The fifth oar
he kept aboard, and used it himself for a sweep to hold her head as
nearly as possible behind the drag and to the sea.

He was tired, sore, and hungry, but he kept the boat's head true for
hours, and his people huddled down in the bottom, and prayed or swore
as the humor took them. The children wept, and some of the older women
fainted and lay prone. These gave no trouble. Some of the younger ones
still insisted on moving about, and brought the wrath of the mate upon
them in no uncertain manner. Smith was making a fight for their lives,
and would not tolerate any hysteria. He smote all who disobeyed with
his usual impersonal and rough manner; but the two girls were now too
much cowed to give him trouble. They lay in the boat's bottom and wept
and sobbed the night long, holding to each other, while the boat tossed
high in the air or fell far down the slopes of ugly seas. And all the
time the water broke over her low gunwales as she sat well down under
her load of living freight.

It was about midnight when the old man, who had been unruly from the
first, sprang upon a thwart and plunged over the side with a shrill
scream.

Smith saw him, and made, a pass to catch him with the oar; but the old
fellow drifted out of reach. The second officer swung the boat as far
as possible toward him; but still he could not reach the figure that
showed floating for a few moments in the darkness. Then Miss Roberts,
who was close to the stern sheets, spoke up.

"Oh, the pity of it, the pity of that old man dying like this! Will no
one save him?" she cried.

Her companion sat up.

"There's no one aboard here who can do anything but bully us women. If
we had a man here, we might save him. I would jump after him myself,
but I can't swim. It's horrible to see him drown right alongside of us
in this darkness."

Smith heard and smiled grimly. He was tired out, sore, and almost
exhausted, but he was full of pluck and fight still. To drop the
steering oar might prove fatal if a comber struck the boat. He called
to the stroke oarsman who took the oar. Smith took the stern line, gave
a turn about a cork jacket that lay upon the seat, and then over the
side he went, calling the men to haul him in when he gave the word.

The affair had only taken a few moments, and the form of the old fellow
was hardly under the surface. Smith floundered to him; but, being a
poor swimmer, as most sailors are, he was quite exhausted when he
finally grabbed him. Instead of easing on the line, he hung dead upon
it, hardly able to keep his face out of the sea. The girls watched him
over the gunwales, but keeping their places. Two men started to haul
him in without waiting for a signal; and they hove upon the line with a
right good will. It was old and dry-rotted, as most lines in lifeboats
are, and it parted.

Smith felt the slack, and knew what it meant. The cork jacket held him
above the surface, and he looked at the boat which seemed so far away
in the darkness, but in reality was only a few fathoms. Yet it was too
far for him to make it again. It meant his death, his ending.

He tried to swim, but the exertion of the day had been too much. His
efforts were weak and ill-directed, and he floundered weakly about,
drifting farther away all the time.

The stroke oarsman called for another line. There was none except that
of the drag. It would not do to haul it in. The boat was doing all she
could now to keep herself afloat, and to risk her broadside in the sea
might be fatal for all hands.

Miss Roberts begged some one to go to the officer's assistance. Smith
seemed to hear and understand. He floundered with more vigor. There
was not a man among the boat's crew who dared to go over the side in
the night. There was nothing more to do but watch and hope that the
second mate would finally make it. But he did not. He struggled on for
many minutes. They could see him now and then fighting silently in the
night. He still seemed to hold the old man with one hand.

"It is dreadful--can no one do anything for him?" begged Miss Roberts.

"I can't swim a stroke, lady," said the man at the steering oar.

No one volunteered to go. Smith slowly drifted off as the boat sagged
back upon her drag. Then he disappeared entirely in the darkness.

"The brute--I didn't think it was in him," said Miss Billings, with
feeling.

"Don't talk that way," said Miss Roberts. "Don't talk that way of a man
who did what he has done. I forgive him with all my heart----"

The morning dawned, and the sea rolled with less vigor. The boat was
still able to keep herself clear. The white faces of the men told of
the frantic endeavor. The women were now nearly all too exhausted to
either care for anything or do anything. They lay listless upon the
boat's bottom, and she made better weather for that fact. By nine
o'clock a steamer was heading for them; and within an hour they were
safe aboard and bound in for New York. They arrived a few days later.

The chief mate's boat had kept her course to the southward after
leaving the berg--she had gone ahead of Smith's. By midnight that night
she was almost dead ahead of the second officer's boat when Smith
jumped in to save the old man.

Daylight showed Wylie a dark speck on the horizon; and at the same time
he saw the smoke of the approaching steamer. He had made bad weather
of it, also; but with more men and less women in his craft he had kept
to the oars, and, when it was very bad, had run slowly before it for
several hours. This had brought him from many miles in advance to but
a few ahead of Smith's boat; and he was rowing slowly ahead again by
daylight. He sighted her, and noticed there were no oars; but he saw
the man steering, and rightly guessed that they were hanging onto a
drag.

Mr. Roberts, the nephew of Captain Brownson, sat close to the mate. He
had relieved him several times during the night. Large and powerful, he
was able to aid the chief mate very much.

"I think my sister is in that boat," he said as they sighted her.

"It looks like the second officer's boat, all right," said Wylie.

They rowed straight for her as the smoke of the steamer rose in the
east. Before they came within a mile, they saw that the steamer would
reach them before they could reach the boat. They then rowed slowly,
and watched, waiting.

"Something right ahead, sir," called a man forward.

Roberts looked over the side. He saw something floating.

"Starboard, swing her over a little," he said to the chief mate.

Roberts leaned over the side. He was nervous at what he saw. It had the
look of something he dreaded. Then the object came drifting along, and
he reached for it. Long before he grasped it, he saw it was the form of
a man holding to a cork jacket with one hand and the collar of a man's
coat with the other.

The old fellow floated high, and Smith's hand was clenched with a death
grip in his clothes. His left hand was jammed through the life jacket,
and the fingers clutched the straps. His head lay face upward, and his
teeth showed bared from his gums.

"Heavens! It's Smith himself!" exclaimed Roberts. He hauled him aboard
with the help of a man.

"It's poor Smith, all right," said Wylie sadly. The life jacket told a
tale too plainly. Wylie knew what had happened.

"It's just as well he didn't come ashore. He was guilty, all right,"
said Mr. Roberts. "A man who wrecks a liner and kills hundreds of
passengers might just as well stay out here. Shall we leave him?"

"Not if I know it," said Wylie, with sudden heat.

Within fifteen minutes they were picked up by the steamer and were
safe. The manager of the line welcomed Mr. Roberts gladly when that
gentleman came to seek him.

"I'm sorry we didn't have you that voyage, Mr. Roberts," he said. "I
don't like to say anything against a dead man; but, of course, Smith
was on duty when she struck--that is all we know."

"And I suppose you'll want me to go into the other ship, now, sir?"
asked the officer.

"Yes, you can report to Captain Wilson any time this week. How is your
sister? Did she recover from the boat ride?"

"Well, in a way, but she's forever talking about that blamed second
mate, Smith, who seemed to have a strange sort of influence over her
while she was with him in the boat. He struck her, too, the dog! It's
just as well he didn't come back," said Roberts.

"Well, she'll get over that all right. Smith was a rough sort of man;
but as we knew him, he was a first-class sailor, a splendid navigator;
and no one seems able to explain how he ran the ship against an iceberg
during daylight. It's one of those things we'll never find out. The
truth, you know, is mighty hard to fathom in marine disasters. It
must have been a terrible blow to Brownson to have to kill himself,
unable to face the shame for a mate's offense--but Brownson was always
a sensitive man, a splendid fellow; and I suppose he would not go in
a boat after what Smith had done. Brownson was captain, and might
come under some criticism. Some of the men say he shot himself after
upbraiding Smith for his crime."

"Yes. My sister tells me they had quite heated words while the liner
was sinking," said the new second mate.

And so William Smith passed out. His name was never mentioned in
shipping circles without reserve. But there are still some men who
remember him, who knew plain "Bill" Smith, the fighting second officer
of the liner that went to her end that morning off the Grand Banks. And
those who knew Smith always think of that cork jacket. They made no
comment. They knew him. It is not necessary.



THE LIGHT AHEAD


"Red light on starboard bow, sir," came the hail from forward. The man
was Jenson, a "square-head" of more than usual intelligence and of keen
eyesight.

"All right," said the mate softly, with no concern. He gazed steadily
at a point two points off the starboard bow, picked up the night glass,
and took a quick look. Then he left the pilot house where he had been,
and walked athwartships on the bridge.

He was a young man. His eyes squinted a little under the strain of
night work and showed the wrinkles at their corners. His hair was black
and curly, and his bronzed face, strong-lined and handsome, was full
of the strength and vigor of youth. He had gone to sea at fifteen. He
was now twenty-five and a chief mate in a passenger ship, a first-class
navigator, a good seaman. And the company liked him. He was a favorite,
a young man rising in the best ships. Five feet eight in his white
canvas shoes and white duck uniform, he looked short, for he was very
stout of limb; a powerful man who had gained his strength by hard work
in the forecastle and upon the main deck of several windjammers whose
records in the Cape trade were well known to all shipping men.

It was the midwatch. Mr. James had been upon the bridge about half an
hour only. It was the blackest part of the night, the time between one
and two, in the latitude north of Hatteras. James rubbed his eyes once
or twice, brushed his short mustache from his mouth with his fingers,
and felt again for the night glass just within the pilot-house window,
which was open.

"How does she head?" he asked the helmsman softly.

"West, two degrees north, sir," said the quartermaster at the steam
steering wheel.

James looked again, and, replacing the glass, walked to the bridge rail
and stopped.

The point far ahead to starboard was showing plainly. It was the red
light of some steamer whose hull was still below the horizon. Her
funnel tops just showed like a black dot, darker than the surrounding
gloom. Her masthead light was very bright, shining like a star of the
first magnitude that had just risen from a clear sky. He knew she was a
long way off. Not less than twelve miles separated the vessels. There
was plenty of time for a change of course. He began to hum softly:

    "When the lights you see ahead,
    Port your helm and show your red----"

"Yes," he muttered, "it's a good old saw--poetry of the night. I wonder
if _she_ knows of the poetry of--of--the sea----"

His mind went back to the days ashore, the last days he had spent upon
the beach with her.

"And I have worked up to this for you," he had told her with all the
feeling he could muster, the strong passion of a strong man asking for
what he desired most. "I have worked up to this for you, just you."

The words rang in his ears. The scene was there before him. The
beautiful woman, the woman he loved more than his life. He could tell
her no more than that--he had done all he had done just for her, just
to be able to call her his own.

The dead monotony of the life before him hung like a black pall, heavy
in the night. He saw all the lonely years he must face, all the hard
life of the sailor, for she had simply laughed lightly, looked him
squarely in the eyes--and shook her head.

"No," she had said gently. "No, you mustn't think of it--I mean it----"
And he knew that what he had done was as nothing to her, nothing at
all--what was a mate to a woman like that?

The steady vibration of the engines below made the steel rigging shake.
The low drone of the side wash as the surf roared from the bows made
a soft murmur where it reached his ears. It made him drowsy, dreamy,
and sullen. He cared for nothing now. What was a mate, after all? Any
corner groceryman was far better in the eyes of most women. Perhaps he
had been mistaken. Perhaps the position he had ideals of was not much.
Yes--that was it; he had been mistaken. And he gazed steadily out into
the dark future, and subconsciously he saw a long, dreary life of toil
and trouble, without the woman he loved to relieve the dark solitude.

Before him rose the lights. The red was now well up and rising fast.
It had been but a flickering spark at first, showing soon after the
bright headlight had risen. It was upon the port side of that vessel's
bridge and high above the sea. It was electric, for no ordinary oil
burner would show so far with color. The ship must be a liner of size,
and must be going fast. Suddenly he saw a flash of green. It was the
starboard light of the approaching ship. Then for an instant both side
lights shone brightly.

The vessel then was not crossing his bows, after all. The green was her
starboard light, and that was the one she must show. It was all right
then. He would not change the course. If she swung out, she must be
coming almost head on now, for her red had shone but two points off the
bow, and the converging courses must be drawing together.

All right then. If they crossed before the ships met it was well and
good. There would probably be a mile or more to spare, and he was even
now crossing her course, for he saw her green light, which showed him
he was right ahead of her, and his rate of speed would take him over
in a few moments. Then her green would be upon his right or starboard
side, showing that she was passing astern of him. It was simple, plain
as could be. He paid little or no attention any longer.

And then suddenly the green light faded and the red shone again. It
caused the officer to stop in his walk, which he had begun again to
keep in action.

"Port your helm a little," he ordered as he realized the positions.

"Aye, aye, sir--port it is, sir," came the monotonous response from the
pilot-house window; and the clanking of the steam gear sounded faintly
upon his ears.

The giant liner swung slowly to starboard, swung just a little; and,
as she did so, the loom of a monstrous figure rose right ahead in the
night. The glare of the bright headlight shone close aboard. The red of
her port light was a dangerous glare; and at a space to port flickered
a moment the fatal green of the starboard side light, flickered, and
then went out, shut off by the running board as the vessel swung across
the bows of the ship, where the mate stood gazing at her.

"Hard aport," he yelled savagely.

"Hard aport, sir," came the response from the wheel, and the voice
showed more or less concern now.

There was an instant of suspense, a moment of silence, and the two
giant shapes came close with amazing speed. The liner swung to her port
helm, and her bows pointed clear of the light ahead. But the speed was
awful. Both going at twenty-five knots an hour, making the closing
speed nearly a mile a minute, brought the giants too close to pass
clear.

There was a hoarse cry from forward. The mate knew he was not going
to clear, and the roar of his siren tore the night's silence. Then
the huge fabrics came in collision. There was a gigantic crash, a
thundering shock, and a tearing, ripping sound as steel tore steel to
ribbons.

The shock made the rigging sing like a giant harp under the strain,
and the "ping" of parting steel lines sounded in accompaniment to the
tumultuous crashing of wood and iron. The cries of men came faintly
through the uproar from forward, and this was followed almost instantly
by frantic shrieks from aft as the effect of the shock was felt by the
women passengers.

The liner had failed to clear, and, swinging too late to port, had cut
slantingly into the other ship's quarter and tore away the greater
part of her stern. Tearing, grinding, ripping, and snapping, the huge
shapes ground alongside for a few moments as their headway took them
along without reducing speed. Too late the reversing engines, too late
the telegraph for all speed astern. The ships had come in contact.
The mate had run into another ship that had shown him her red light
to starboard. There was no mistake about it. The cry of the seaman on
watch had been heard by fifty persons.

"Red light on the starboard bow, sir----"

It rang in the officer's ears. It sounded above the terrible din of
smashing steel and beams, and even above the roar of the sirens telling
of the death wound that had been given a marine monster of twenty-five
thousand tons register.

The awful feeling of responsibility paralyzed the mate. The terror of
what he had done numbed him; stunned him so that he stood there upon
the bridge like a man asleep. Fifteen hundred human souls were sinking
in that ship, which was now drifting off to port in the night with
their cries sounding faintly through the blackness, even rising to be
heard through the roar of the steam. He thought of it. It was ghastly.
Fifteen hundred souls; and he knew how badly he had wounded the ship.
He knew the terrific power of the blow he had delivered--shearing off
the after part of that vessel and letting in the sea clear to the
midship bulkhead. There was no chance for her to float. The wound
was too deadly. It was as bad as though he had rammed her with a
battleship's ram.

The half-dressed form of the captain rushed to him--his captain.

"What happened?" he whispered hoarsely. He seemed to be afraid to ask
the question loudly. "Great Heaven, did you hit her?"

The mate stood gazing at the huge shadow, and his tongue refused to
answer the question. Then the voice beside him seemed to gain its
power. It roared out:

"Bulkheads, there--close them, quick!" And the automatic device, worked
from the pilot house, was pulled savagely.

The captain rushed into the pilot house. The man at the wheel who had
left it to throw the lever to close the bulkheads sprang back to his
post.

"How'd you do it?" asked the master again, in a low voice full of
passion and strained to the utmost. "How'd you strike--don't you know
you killed at least five hundred men? You murdering brute--you were
asleep." Then he raised his voice again, and bawled down through the
tube to MacDougal, the chief engineer.

"How is she--quick--get the pumps going--collision--keep the firemen
cool, and for God's sake don't let them panic--keep them at their posts
until we see what's up. We've run down the express steamer _Blue Star_,
of the Royal Dutch Line----"

The master turned to the pilot house again and looked out of the
window. His chief officer was still standing where he had left him.

"In Heaven's name, Mr. James, what's the matter with you to-night?"
he broke out wildly, in passionate tones, almost sobbing. "It's all
hands--get 'em out quick!"

He was a strange creature standing there in his undershirt and drawers,
with his long gray beard streaming down across his breast. The man at
the wheel even looked at him for a moment, but did not smile. It was
tragedy, not comedy.

"Is she full speed astern?" asked the master quickly.

"Yes, sir, full speed astern, sir," said the man. His face was white,
and his hands shook a little while he held the spokes of the wheel.
There was death for many that night, and he knew it. It would be hard
to tell who would survive in the rush that was sure to come if the
ship went down. Yet his seamanship told him that much was to be hoped
from the forward bulkhead. It would hold her up if it could stand the
strain.

In two minutes there was a rush of hundreds of feet upon the decks
below the flying bridge. The second officer came up half naked, dressed
in shirt and trousers, without shoes or stockings. He was a powerful
man and short, with a tremendous voice, a real Yankee bos'n voice;
and he roared out orders for the men, who jumped to their stations
automatically.

The captain came again to the bridge and took command. He yelled to
the boat crews below, and strove to quiet the crowding passengers who
pushed and fought about the boats in spite of the after guard and
seamen.

"Get down there and wade into that mess, Wilson," said the master
to the second officer; and he jumped down and went bawling through
the press, pushing and pulling, striking here and there a refractory
passenger who would insist upon trying to fill the small boats.

"There is no danger--no danger whatever," roared the captain again
and again from the bridge. The petty officers took up the cry, and
gradually the press about the starboard lifeboats grew less. The boats
upon the port side had been all carried away or smashed to bits. Ten
boats were left.

A man rushed up the bridge steps coming from aft.

"She's sinking, sir," he panted, pointing to the dim shadow of the
rammed ship drifting astern. The steady roar of her siren told of the
danger, and seemed to be a resonant cry for help.

The master gazed aft. Then he rushed to the pilot-house window and
took up the night glass hanging there. He looked hard at the ship now
lying astern and riding with her bows high in the air. The man was
right. She was rapidly going down. Ten minutes at the most would tell
the whole story.

"Get the starboard boats out, Mr. James," called the captain in an
even tone, "and let no one but the crews in them. The first man who
attempts to get in will be shot. Go to the vessel and bring back all
you can--quick----"

But the form there had vanished before he had finished speaking. The
chief officer had awakened at last from his stupor. His responsibility
came back to him with a rush of feeling. But an instant before he had
faced the end. He had decided to kill himself at once, and was just
about to go to his room for his gun. He was too ashamed to face the
ordeal, the ordeal of the officer who has run down a ship in a clear
night. There had been literally no excuse for him. He could not plead
ignorance of the laws; his license as officer made that impossible. He
knew what to do when raising a light to starboard when that light was
red. The rules were plainly written. Every common waterman knew them
by heart. He had disobeyed them by some mischance, some mistake he
could not exactly define; but he knew that under it all was that dull,
sullen apathy from a wrong, or fancied wrong, that had caused him to be
negligent.

He would not go upon the witness stand and say that, because a woman
did not love him, he had allowed his ship to ram a liner with fifteen
hundred souls aboard her in a clear night. No! Death was a hundred, a
thousand times better than such ignominy, such a miserable, cowardly
sort of excuse. He would blow his brains out just as soon as he saw the
finish, just as soon as he knew his vessel would float. Then came the
captain's voice of command:

"Get out the starboard boats and save all you can----"

Yes, it was his duty; his above all others. He was at number one boat
before the master had finished his orders.

Six good men were at their stations. The falls were run taut, the boat
shoved clear, and down she went with a rush into the sea. Nine others
followed within a minute, and ten boats pulled away into the darkness
astern, where the roar of the siren still sounded loud and resonant--a
wild, terrible cry of death and destruction.

James met a boat coming toward him before he reached the ship. She was
full. Sixty-two men and women filled her, and she just floated, and
that was all, her gunwales awash in the smooth sea. The swell lifted
her, and she rose high above him, a dark object against the sky. Then
she sank slowly down into the trough, and disappeared behind the hill
of water that ran smoothly from the northeast in long, heaving seas.

The night was still fine, and the wind almost nothing at all. The banks
of vapor rising in the east told of a change; but the change was not
yet. James noticed the weather mechanically, as a good seaman does,
from a small boat when at sea at night; but he was thinking of the
huge shadow which now drew close aboard.

As the boat came under the port side, he could see the passengers
crowding the rail in the waist, where the lifeboats were being filled
and sent away as fast as men could work them. Seven boats were
alongside full of human beings. Two more were being lowered. Three came
from under the stern as he drew alongside.

There was a mass of people still to be taken off. He saw at a glance
that the liner had twenty large lifeboats for her complement. One was
smashed. There was every reason to believe she would send out nineteen
with at least a thousand people in them. There would be several hundred
more to take besides these. The life rafts might do it, but he knew the
danger of life rafts in the furious struggle in a sinking ship.

The thing would be to save the passengers with his own boats. This he
might do if the ship floated long enough. She was sinking fast, as he
could see by her rising bows. She was probably even now hanging solely
by her midship bulkhead, and that would most likely be badly smashed by
the collision, for he had struck the ship far enough forward to do it
damage, although his vessel had only cut into her well aft. The blow
had been slanting. A little more time, perhaps a few seconds, and the
ships would have swung clear.

He came alongside and hailed the deck.

"Send them down lively--come along now, quick!" he called up in his
natural voice. It was the first time since the collision he had
spoken. It sounded strange to hear his own tones coming natural again.

In a few moments he was crowding and seating the women and children
in his boat. Then came the men from everywhere. They crowded down the
falls, jumped into the sea, and swam alongside, begging to be hauled
aboard, or climbed over the high gunwales themselves. One powerful
young man, stripped to the waist, dived clean from the hurricane deck,
and almost instantly rose alongside. Then he swung himself into the
boat, and stood amidships hauling others in until the craft settled
down to her bearings and the men at the oars could hardly row.

"Shove off--give way," ordered James.

The boat started back slowly, the men rowing gingerly, poking and
striking the passengers in the backs with the oars until the crowd
settled itself. Then she went along slowly toward the ship, and the
women in her prayed, the men swore, and the children wept and sobbed.
And all the time the fact that he was the cause of it all impressed
James queerly. He could not understand it, could not quite see why he
had done it, and yet he knew he had. One man spoke to the athlete who
had dived.

"They should burn a man who would sink a ship like this on a clear
night; they should burn him to a stake--the drunken, cowardly
scoundrel----"

And James sat there with the tiller ropes in his hand; sat silent,
thoughtful, and knew in his heart the man had spoken the truth. If he
could only be sure of the passengers--he would not give them a chance
to say anything more. His boat came alongside his own ship. The crowd
above cheered him--they did not know--he was a hero to them, the first
boat with the rescued. How quickly they would change that cheer when
they learned the truth! He almost smiled. His set face, strong-lined,
bronzed, and virile, turned away from the people in the boat. He gave
orders in the usual tone. The passengers were quickly passed aboard.
Then he started back for another load.

By this time the sides of his ship were crowded with boats. She was
taking aboard over a thousand people, and the sea was still smooth.

The swell heaved higher as the small boat went back toward the sinking
steamer. James noticed it. The sky to the eastward was dark with a
bank of vapor. The air had the feeling of a northeaster. It was coming
along, and there was plenty of time, for it would come slowly. The last
of the passengers would be either sunk or aboard his own ship before
the breeze rose to a dangerous extent.

The men rowed quickly. They were anxious. The horror of the whole thing
had fallen upon them like a pall; but they strove mightily to do their
share. James found his boat to be the last to reach the sinking ship.

The liner was well down now by the stern and her deck was awash aft.
She rose higher and higher as he gazed at her, her decks slanting,
sloping, and she rolled loggily in the growing swell. Her siren
stopped. A dull, muffled roar from the sea, a smothered explosion told
of the end of the boilers. She would go in a moment. The passengers
were clinging, grabbing to anything to hold on. The deck slanted so
dangerously that many were slid off into the sea where they plunged,
some silently and hopelessly, others screaming wildly with the terror
of sudden death.

James watched them. He saw many die, saw many go to their end. Others
swam; and he strove to pick them up, forgetting himself in the struggle.

He picked up sixteen in this manner, steering for them as they swam
about in the night calling for help. The last one was a girl, a
beautiful girl of twenty or less. He hauled her into the boat.

A sudden, wild yelling caused him to look. The sinking liner stood upon
end, her forefoot clear of the sea. She swung loggily to and fro for a
moment, settling as she did so. Then, with a rush, she plunged stern
first to the bottom, the crash of her bursting decks as the air blew
out being the last sound he heard.

The ship was very close to him. Her swing as she foundered brought her
closer. The vortex sucked his boat toward her, drew the craft with a
mighty pull. A spar, twisting, whirling in the swirl, struck the boat,
and instantly she was a wreck, capsized, engulfed in the mighty hole
the sinking liner made in the sea with her last plunge.

James found himself smothered, drowning, drawn downward by a great
force he could not fight against. The whole ocean seemed to pull down
upon him and crush him into its black depths.

The whole thing took such a small space of time, he hardly realized his
position. The utter blackness, the salt water in his eyes and mouth,
all paralyzed his mind for a few moments. Then he thought of his end.
It was just as well. He was drowning, going to the bottom. He must soon
go, anyhow; he could not face those wrecked passengers; and with the
thought came a grim peacefulness, a satisfaction that the fight was all
over. He could now rest at last.

But nature within him was very strong. He was a powerful man. When he
gave up the struggle, his natural buoyancy lifted him to the surface
of the sea. He came up, his head appearing in the air, and he breathed
again in spite of himself. Then the old, old fighting spirit, the
desire to survive which is so strong within the breast of every young
animal, took charge. No, he would not go down yet. He must see the
finish, the end of things in which he was concerned.

He swam about aimlessly. The swell heaved him high up, dropped him far
down; and he noticed that now the sea was running, the small combers
rising before a stiff breeze. These burst upon his face and head and
smothered him a little. He turned his back to them, and swam on, on,
and still on into the darkness.

He saw nothing. The ship, the boats had all gone. Once he was about to
cry for help; but the thought was horrible, distasteful to the last
degree. He had no right to call for help. He would not. But he swam
and tried to see something to get upon.

Something struck him heavily upon the head. Stars swam before his eyes.
He reached upward with his hands, and they met a solid substance. Then
he sank slowly down, down--and the blackness came upon him.

The object that had hit him was a small boat. In it were a man and a
girl, the girl James himself had picked up from the sea a short time
before. The man was a seaman, and he heard the boat strike. He reached
over the side, caught the glimpse of a human form as it struck the
boat's side and sank.

The seaman took up the boat hook and was about to poke the body away.
He was sick of dead men, sick of seeing corpses floating about. He had
met half a dozen already that night. But this one seemed to move, and
the hook caught in his clothes. He pulled the body up, and saw the man
was not dead, but dazed, moving feebly in a drunken way. Then he pulled
James into the boat.

James regained his senses after half an hour; and during that time the
boat ran before a stiff squall of wind and rain that swept it along
before it into the darkness. The seaman steered with an oar, and kept
the boat's head before the wind. The mate opened his eyes, and in the
gray of the early dawn he saw a man he did not know, a seaman from the
sunken liner, steering the boat calmly before the gale that was now
coming fast with the rising sun. Near him in the bottom of the boat lay
the girl huddled up and moaning with cold and fright, and fatigue.

James arose and staggered aft.

"How'd I get here?" he asked.

"I pulled you in, sir," said the sailor. "Are you from the ship that
sank us?"

"Yes. I'm the mate, the chief officer."

"Well, if I'd 'a' know'd it, I mightn't have taken the trouble," said
the seaman.

James said nothing. There was nothing for him to say. He knew the
sailor was right. He knew the officers of his ship were men to scorn,
to hate--but he would not say it was himself alone who had done
the terrible deed. Something stopped him. It might have been sheer
shame--or fear. He looked at the girl. Then he went to her and raised
her, placing her upon a seat and trying to cheer her up.

"We'll be picked up soon--don't worry about it. Our ship will stand by
and hunt for all the missing----"

"But I'm dreadfully cold," said the girl, with chattering teeth.

"Put my coat on, then," said James; and he took off his soaked coat and
made her put it on.

The man grinned in derision.

"Say," he said, "who was on watch when you hit us?"

James took no notice. He would not answer the question. Then the girl
spoke up.

"Yes, whose fault was it? You belong to the other ship, you'll know all
about it. They ought to hang the man who is responsible for this awful
thing--my poor mother and father--oh----" And she broke into a sob.

The man at the steering oar smiled grimly.

"Yes, miss, that's right, they sure ought to hang the officer who
runs down a liner on a clear night when he's bound to see the lights
plainly. I don't make no excuses for him--it's more'n murder."

"You were on watch, on duty--you are dressed?" said the girl.

"Yes, I knowed it when I first seen you," snarled the seaman. "I reckon
you're the man who did it--what was the matter? Couldn't you keep
awake, or what?" The tone was a sneer, an insult, yet the sailor did
wish to find out how so unusual a thing could happen as the running
down of a ship on a clear night when her lights could be seen fifteen
miles or more.

James tried to defend himself. It was instinctive. The contempt of the
sailor was too much. On other occasions, he never allowed the slightest
insolence from the men of his own vessel. But now the officer was numb,
paralyzed. He was guilty--and he knew it.

For hours they sat now in silence, the seaman holding the boat steady
before the northeaster, which grew in power until by nine in the
morning it was blowing a furious gale, and the sea was running strongly
with sweeping combers. There was nothing to do but keep the boat before
it. To try to head any other way meant to risk her filling from a
bursting sea. The exertion of steering was great. The seaman, with set
face, held onto the oar, and James could see the sweat start under the
constant strain, but he said nothing--he waited.

"You'll have to take her, sir--a while--I'm getting played out," panted
the man.

"All right," said James, "give her to me--now----"

He took the oar during the backward slant as she dropped down the side
of the sea that passed under her. He was ready for the rush as she rose
and shot forward again upon the breaking crest of the following hill.
The exercise did him good. It made him think clearly, it took his mind
from the hopelessness of his life.

All that day the two men took turns keeping the small boat before the
sea; and they ran to the southward a full half hundred miles before
the gale let up. Both were too exhausted to talk, too thirsty to even
speak--and there was neither water nor food in the boat. Her ration of
biscuit and water had been lost when she had been drawn down by the
sinking liner.

The sailor had righted the boat after great effort, aided by the sea;
and owing to the smoothness of the swell at the time he had managed to
get her clear of water. Then he had picked up the girl who had been
floating about, swimming and holding onto fragments of wreckage since
James' boat had gone under.

The mate noticed that, although the girl had not spoken to him again
after knowing he had caused the disaster, she still wore his coat. He
studied the matter, the inconsistency of women, and he thought it
strange. The sun shone for a moment before it set that evening; and
in the glowing light James gazed steadily at the woman. She was very
beautiful. She had not made a complaint since the morning. The sea was
still running high, although the wind was going down with the sun, yet
the girl had not been seasick, nor had she shown any suffering.

"How do you feel now?" he whispered, as he waited his turn at the oar.

"I'm all right, thank you. Do you think we will get picked up?" she
said.

"We'll be picked up to-morrow--sure," said the officer. "We are now
right in the track of the West India ships, and will sight something by
daylight when we can set a signal. Are you very thirsty?"

"Tell me first, how did this accident occur? Were you really asleep, or
just what? I can stand the thirst, and I'm warm enough now. This water
is like milk in comparison with the air, it's so warm."

"We are in the Stream," said James; "the Gulf Stream, and that is about
eighty along here--it's better than freezing in the high latitudes."

"You haven't answered my question," said the girl.

"I don't know--I don't remember what it was. I must have lost my
head--been asleep--or something--yes, I was on duty, on watch--it was
my fault entirely. I saw your ship, saw her red light to starboard--the
right, you know. She had the right of way under the rules. I intended
to swing off, waited a few minutes to see her better--then her
green light showed--and--then it was too late. I went hard aport,
did my best--but hit her--we were going very fast--both ships were
going twenty-five knots--making the approaching speed fifty miles
an hour--nearly a mile a minute--I must have lost my head just a
moment--maybe I was dreaming----"

"I know you are not to blame," said the girl, placing her hand in
his. "You have told me the truth, a straight story--but yet I don't
see how it all happened. I'm not a sailor, anyhow; perhaps I couldn't
understand. But I feel you didn't do it on purpose----"

"No, no," whispered James. "How could a man do a thing like that on
purpose?" He could not tell her the truth. He was ashamed to mention a
woman, to say he was sullen, depressed, stupefied at the loss of a love
he bore a woman.

He took his place at the oar for the last time that night. The sea was
no longer dangerous. They spoke of rigging a drag with the oar and
thwarts, making a drag by the aid of the painter or line, which still
was fast to her forward. They had finished this before dark, and then
they lay down, exhausted. The girl stood watch. In the dim dawn the
girl gave out. She had stood watch all night, and she was exhausted.

"I understand," she muttered to herself, "this poor fellow, this
officer was tired out--he slept--I don't blame him at all, it was not
his fault."

The sun shone upon the three sleeping, the boat riding safely and
dry to the drag made of the oar and thwarts. James aroused himself
first, awakening dimly with the warmth of the sun. He sat up. The two
others slept on. The girl was breathing loudly, almost panting, and her
parted lips were blue. Yet she was beautiful. James knew it. She was
exhausted, and help must come soon for her.

He sat and gazed at the horizon, and when the sea lifted the boat,
he stared hard all around to see if anything showed above the rim.
Hours passed in this fashion. The girl moaned in her sleep. The sailor
shifted uneasily, and grunted, snored, and murmured incoherently. They
were all very thirsty.

It was about ten o'clock in the morning that James saw something to
the northward. It was just a speck, just a tiny dot on the rim of sea;
but he knew it was a ship of some kind, a vessel passing. The minutes
dragged, and he was about to rouse the sailor to get him to help watch.
Then he remembered how the fellow had striven so manfully the day
before when they rode out the gale. No, he would let them sleep.

By noon, the vessel was close aboard and coming slowly with the wind
upon her port beam. She was a schooner bound south. James could see the
lumber on her decks. Her three masts swung to and fro in the swell, and
she made bad weather of the sluggish sea. The foam showed white under
her forefoot, and told of the speed being at least a few knots an hour.
James called the sailor.

"Get up--turn out--there's a schooner alongside," he said. The man
moved slightly, and slept on. James shook him roughly.

"Lemme alone," muttered the seaman.

"Ship ahoy!" yelled the mate as the schooner came within a quarter of
a mile and headed almost straight for them. He stood up and waved his
arms. Nothing came of it. The girl awoke. She sat up and realized the
position. In a moment she had taken off her skirt and handed it to the
mate. He waved it wildly; and his yelling finally awoke the exhausted
seaman. The man stood up and bawled loudly. Then he washed his mouth
with salt water, and yelled again and again. James swung the skirt. The
girl prayed audibly.

The schooner stood right along on her course. She had not noticed the
boat. Passing a few hundred fathoms from them caused all three to
become frantic. The men bawled, cursed, and begged the schooner to take
them in.

The captain of the vessel, coming on deck, happened to look in their
direction. He spoke to the man at the wheel, who for the first time
seemed to take his eyes from the compass card. Then, taking his glass,
the captain saw that three living souls were in the small boat. The
next instant he was bawling orders, and the schooner hauled her wind
and came slatting into the breeze.

Six men appeared on her deck. James saw them working to get the small
boat clear from her stern davits. Then they seemed to realize that this
was unnecessary, and the schooner, flattening in her sheets, worked
up to them slowly, rising and falling into the high swell. She stood
across to windward, and then came about, easing off her sheets and
drifting slowly down upon the boat.

She drew close aboard.

"Catch a line," yelled the captain from her deck.

James waved his hand in reply, and a heaving line flaked out and fell
across the boat's gunwales.

In another moment they were being hauled aboard.

Explanations came at once. The master of the schooner was bound for
South America.

"Of course, I'll put you all aboard the first homeward-bound ship I
fall in with," said he.

"But you surely will put us ashore at once," said the girl, after she
had drunk tea and changed her clothes. They were eating gingerly of
ship's food and drinking water ravenously.

"That I cannot do, miss," said the captain. "I'm bound to Valparaiso
with cargo, and I must take it there."

"But we will pay you to take us ashore--pay you anything, for I am very
rich," said the girl.

The master smiled sadly. The effects of the forty hours in the open
boat were evidently having their effect upon the young woman.

"No," he said, "you go below, and the steward will give you all you
want to eat, and your clothes will be dry enough to put on again before
night. We might fall in with a ship bound north any time now. Then
you'll have a chance."

James knew the man was within his rights, of course. He was glad to be
in the schooner. The sailor didn't seem to mind where he went. One
ship was very much like another to him. The consul would be bound to
ship him home, anyway. The girl was given a stateroom in the after
cabin; and she soon slept the sleep of the exhausted.

The mate stayed on deck. The whole thing had a strange look to him.
He had decided to kill himself. He dared not go back to the States,
anyhow, to face the charges that would be made against him. He might
slip overboard any night on the run down, and no one would be the wiser.

The fact that the schooner was bound to South America seemed to give
him a respite. There was no hurry to commit the desperate act that he
felt he must, in all honor and decency, do. He might live a month at
least before dying.

After the awful struggle through the gale and shipwreck, he felt a
desire to live more than before. The whole affair was more distant,
almost effaced. And now he was not going back, anyhow.

The captain asked him few questions regarding his wreck, seeming to
feel a certain delicacy about it. The day passed, and the next and the
next, and no ship was sighted going north. They were now drawing out of
the track of vessels, and a strange hope arose with the mate that they
would not meet one.

The girl sat with him often, and they talked of other things than
shipwreck. She was beautiful--there was no question about it. The
glow of returning strength made her more lovely. James found himself
wondering at her. She had been the only human being so far that would
condescend to speak to him without contempt. He was lonely, very
lonely, and the girl seemed to feel he needed some one to cheer him
up. She did not realize his weakness. He was very strong to her; a
strong man who had suffered from an accident, due, perhaps, to his
carelessness, but not to criminal negligence. But he knew, he knew, and
could not tell.

The days passed, and the terror of the thing he had in his mind began
to fade slightly. He knew he must die. The sailor, his shipmate who had
been picked up with him, had told every one in the schooner that he,
James, was on watch and was responsible for a terrible disaster, the
death of a great number of persons. James saw it in their looks. He
knew he would never get a ship again, never hold a place among white
men. Yes, he must die.

It gave him a sort of grim satisfaction to feel that he was just to
live a certain length of time, that he would cut that short at the last
moment. He wondered how a prisoner felt when the sentence of death
was pronounced upon him. He had pronounced it upon himself. It was
a genuine relief, for the vision of those terror-stricken, drowning
passengers was always with him night and day, except when he was in a
dreamless sleep. That sleep seemed to be portentous of what he would
face.

The days turned to weeks and the weeks to months. The voyage was long
and the winds light. They were ninety days to the latitude of the
Falklands when they struck a furious "williwaw" from the hills of
Patagonia. The schooner was in a bad fix. She was lightly manned; and,
in spite of the addition of James and the seaman from the wreck, she
held her canvas too long.

The struggle was short but terrific. The fore-topsail blew away and
saved the mast; but the main held, and the topmast buckled and finally
went by the board. The headsails had been lowered, but they blew
out from the gaskets, and the jibboom snapped short off under the
tremendous threshing of flying canvas. The maintopmast, hanging by the
backstays, fell across the triatic stay, and the steel of the backstays
cut into the spring until it finally parted under the jerks, and the
mizzen was left to stand alone. It went by the board, and the great
mast, snapping short at the partners, went over the side, and smashed
and banged there at each heave of the ship.

There was desperate work to do to save the vessel. Her master did
wonders and showed his skill; but the most dangerous and deadly task of
going to leeward to cut adrift the lanyards was left to James. No one
else would go.

James was a powerful man, and had won his way to an officer's berth
by endeavor, not by nepotism. His hope was that he might be killed in
the struggle. He dared anything, tried to do the impossible--and did
it. How he succeeded in clearing away the wreck of that mast remains a
mystery to those who watched him. He was almost dead when dragged back
and the schooner floated clear.

The girl had seen the whole affair from the glass of the companionway.
She had held her breath, almost fainted again and again at the
sight of James in that fight for life. To her it was simply grand,
tremendous--she had never been touched by a man's heroism before.

When it was all over and the schooner, dismantled and storm-driven, lay
riding down the giant seas that swept around the Horn in the Pacific
Antarctic Drift, she watched over and attended the officer as he lay
in his bunk with a broken arm, a cut across the head, and the toes of
one foot gone. She knew that there was something behind the will to do
as James had done. But she could not fathom it, could not tell why he
was unresponsive. He lay silent mostly, and seldom looked at her. Yet
he was sane in his conversation, not delirious in any way. It worried
her. It caused that peculiar thing that is in every woman to make the
man she admires responsive. And the more she showed her feelings, the
less he seemed to care. It ended the way it usually does under such
conditions. She fairly worshiped him.

After that storm the weather grew very calm. The dark ocean seemed to
be at rest for a spell. The schooner was now to the south'ard of the
Falklands, and the captain decided that he would not venture around the
Horn in the desperate condition he was in. Stanley Harbor was under his
lee, and he bore away for it. Then, with the perversity of the southern
zone, the wind hauled to the eastward and blew steadily for a week;
blew right in their faces.

James came on deck before they were within a hundred miles of the
land. He sat about in the cold of the evening wrapped up in rugs, and
the girl waited upon him, brought him anything he wished. In the long
hours of daylight--for it was light enough to read until midnight--they
sat near the taffrail. The captain said nothing; he would not notice.
He liked the man who had saved his ship. The girl was sympathetic, and
James often held her hand. She did not attempt to withdraw it.

But he would not tell her he cared for her. That was absurd. He had
already sacrificed his life. He was as good as dead. Yet he wondered
at the passion that had brought him into such desperate trouble and
had caused so much ruin and death. He pondered silently, and now often
watched the girl furtively.

Into the beautiful harbor, the great fiord of Port Stanley, they came,
the schooner making fairly good way in spite of her crippled condition.
Her arrival was greeted with joyous acclaim by the land sharks, who
smelled the wound and saw the damage. They would make a good haul.
Ships didn't come often--but when they did, well, they paid.

The governor was notified of the arrival. He was told everything but
the relation of the passengers to the ships to which they originally
belonged. The master was generous; and, besides, it was not America
they were now in. It was an outlying foreign colony at the edge of
the world, a place where one seldom went or heard from. They might
go ashore if they wished. The seaman asked to remain aboard. He was
allowed to do so, and consequently did not go ashore and talk too much.

James passed that last night in high spirits. He was going out on his
last voyage. He was going to die, going to leave the woman who he knew
loved him, who had been so sympathetic, so lovable. They were on deck a
long time that evening, and the captain, being wise and old enough to
understand, did not molest them.

"Good night," she said finally. "Good night. I'll see you to-morrow
before we go ashore. We can take the ship across to the straits, and
meet the regular liner as she comes through from Punta Arenas. We'll be
home again in a few weeks."

"Good-by," he said simply. That was all. She went below.

Shortly after four bells--two o'clock in the morning--James, with set
face and grim resolution, stole on deck. He gazed up at the Southern
Cross for a few moments, at the beautiful constellation that he would
see for the last time; then at the grim, barren hills back of the
settlement.

It was a farewell look, his farewell to things in this world. He was
determined not to be disgraced. He would die like a man, as he could no
longer live like one.

Then he dropped softly over the side, and sank down--down into the
quiet waters of Stanley Harbor.

       *       *       *       *       *

The instinct of woman is often more certain than her reason. The girl
had noticed something strange in the man's behavior. She had woman's
instinct to divine its cause. She had not gone to bed that night, but
waited to see just what might happen to the man who owned her very
soul. She had not realized before that she loved this officer, this man
who had confessed partly to his disgrace. The realization awakened her
wits. She would see what he meant.

At the slight splash, she was on deck in an instant. Her first thought
was to call for help. Then she knew to do so was to call for an
explanation; and she realized the disgrace that would follow instantly
upon the explanation. She seized a life buoy always hanging upon the
taffrail, and with it dropped over the side.

She swam silently toward a spot that showed disturbed water rapidly
drifting astern with the tide. Within a minute she had reached the form
of James, who had not placed enough weights in his clothes to insure
quick sinking. He was lying silently upon his back, waiting--waiting
for the end that must come shortly.

"Swim with me," she pleaded. "You must--come with me--we'll swim ashore
together."

Before the morning dawned, the pair were upon the beach, several miles
distant from the schooner. James saw he was doomed to life. He could
not even die. Then the beauty of the woman, the sympathy, the love he
could not deny, had its way with him, and they decided to vanish into
the country, to disappear together.

This might or might not have been hard to do in the islands where
every one is well known. But it happened that Captain Black, of the
whaling station situated near the entrance of the fiord, was on deck
that morning. He saw an amazing thing, a woman and a man swimming
together, and finally making the land near the point.

Calling a couple of men, he started for them in his whaleboat, and
caught up with them before they had gone more than a few fathoms from
the shore. They were chilled through, cold and exhausted. He took them
aboard the whaling steamer, and soon saw that he had a seaman of parts
in Mr. James. Men were hard to get. All of his crews were convicts or
ticket-of-leave men; and the addition of a man even with a wife was
something to be taken advantage of.

He took James aside and asked him a few questions. He was satisfied
that he would not get into trouble by giving the officer a billet; and
he forthwith made him one of the company in charge of a small boat. The
affair would be kept secret, and the governor would be told nothing. He
probably would not ask too many questions, anyhow.

"I shall ship you both to the north'ard station, fifty miles up the
coast. You can have a shack there--plenty of peat for fires and good
grub--I'll inspect you once a month. Johnson will be in charge of the
station. You can take this letter to him. Your wife can go with you if
you wish."

James looked at the girl. She nodded her head.

"Is there a priest about here?" asked James.

"Yes. Why?" asked Black.

"Well, if you'll kindly send for him, he can marry us before we start."

       *       *       *       *       *

Back of the northward station, on the ramp that rises sheer back from
the beach like a table-land, there are a few cottages. These are
occupied by the crews of the whaling station and their families. In
one of them is a handsome woman with two little tots--happy-faced and
smiling she is. But she seems a bit out of place in her surroundings.
Mrs. James Smith they call her, and she is apparently very happy, very
happy indeed, in spite of it all.

James Smith is the best gun pointer in the fleet, the best harpooner
with the gun-firing harpoon. He is a sober, quiet, steady man, who has
nothing now of the ship's officer about him. He never talks of wrecks.
If some one starts a conversation regarding them--and they are much
hoped for in the Falklands--he goes away.

Sometimes in Jack's saloon down at Stanley, he has been known to sit
and stare out over the dark ocean, to sit and often mutter:

"Was it right, after all--was it worth while--was it?"

But he is a sober, quiet, industrious man, who goes about his duties
without enthusiasm, without effort.



THE WRECK OF THE "RATHBONE"


"Eight bells, sir," came the voice from without, following the _rap_,
_rap_ upon the door of my room. I had just five minutes to dress myself
and get out, and I rolled over, listening to the sounds on deck. As
I had only taken off my sea boots, I was in no hurry to turn to. My
sou'wester hung upon a peg, but my oilskin jacket was still buttoned up
close about my neck, where it had been during my sleep; and the oilskin
trousers scraped noisily as I slid my legs to the edge of the bunk.

I had slept three hours and forty minutes, and must go out and relieve
Slade, the second mate, who had, in turn, relieved me at the end of the
mid-watch. It was now just five minutes of four in the morning, a cold,
snowy nor'easter blowing, and the brig running wildly into the thick of
it.

We had cleared from New York for Rio, and were trying to run out into
the warm Gulf Stream before the gale overblew us and forced us to heave
to, to ride it down. January at sea on the coast was hard, indeed.

I swore at the hard luck, for my sleep had seemed just an instant,
just a second's unconsciousness, and I was stiff and soaked with sea
water; so cold that I had to keep on my oilskins to sleep at all. I had
finally steamed my body, incased as it was, into some sort of warmth,
and the first movement sent the chills running down my spine. I threw
off my blankets and stood shivering, trying to jam my feet into the wet
boots as the bells struck off, and I was due on deck.

Slade stood with his shoulders hunched to his ears at the break of the
poop, holding to the rail to steady himself as the brig plunged and
tore along under a reefed fore-topsail and close-reefed spanker, with
the wind abaft the beam. The gray light of the winter morning had not
come yet, and the snow beat upon my face, as if some invisible hand
hurled it from the utter blackness to windward.

The dull, snoring roar of the wind under the feet of the topsail told
of the increasing velocity of the squalls; and the quick, live jerk
of the ship as she went rushing along the crest of a roller for an
instant, and then slid along the weather side, dropping stern foremost
into the trough, with a heave to windward, indicated that we were doing
all we could.

"Southeast b'south!" yelled Slade into my ear. "You'll have to watch
her."

I knew what he meant. She was steering hard, and might broach to in any
careless moment.

"Call the old man if there's any change," he added, and stumbled down
the poop steps to the main deck, where the watch were huddled under
the lee of the deck house. Then he disappeared aft, and the night
swallowed him up.

I made my way to the wheel. Bill, a strong West Indian negro, was
holding her steady enough, meeting her as she came to and swung off. He
was assisted by Jones, a sturdy little fellow with a big shock head. I
could just make out their faces in the light from the binnacle, which
burned, for a wonder, in spite of the gale. It generally blew out in
spite of all we could do to keep the lamps lit. Beyond was a hopeless
blackness.

I went to the weather rail and tried to see to windward. A fleeting
glimpse of a white comber caught my gaze close aboard; but beyond a few
fathoms I could see nothing at all. Aft under the stern the torrent
of dead water boiled and roared, showing a sickly flare from the
phosphorus. We were going some, probably twelve or fifteen knots an
hour; and right ahead was nothing--that is, nothing we could see; just
a black wall of darkness.

Vainly I tried to make out the light of the coming morning; but the
snow squalls shut off everything. Pete, sharp-eyed fellow of my watch,
was on lookout on the forecastle head. I knew Pete's eyes were the best
ever, but he could see nothing in that wild gale of snow and sleet and
inky darkness. I went to the break of the poop again, and hailed the
deck below.

"Keep a sharp lookout ahead, there," I said, bawling the words out to
reach through the storm. Then I stood waiting, for there was nothing
else to do.

Two bells came--five o'clock--and the watch reported all well and the
lights burning brightly. Our starboard and port--green and red--lights
were none too bright at any time, yet they were well within the law,
and had served the ship for five years or more.

I answered the hail, and stood trying again to see something over
the black hills of water that were rushing to the southwest under
the pressure of the gale. Something made me very nervous. I began to
shiver, and the snow struck my face and melted enough to run down my
neck, making me miserable, indeed. I still stood gazing right ahead
into the night, hoping for the dawn which was now due in another hour,
when I heard a yell from the forecastle head.

"Light dead ahead, sir," came the hail.

I looked and saw nothing, but took Pete's word for it.

"Keep her off all she'll go," I roared to the wheel.

And just as I felt her swing her stern to the following sea, I saw
close to us the green light of a steamer, and above it her masthead
light. Then the thing happened.

A wild cry from forward, followed by the loom of a gigantic object in
the gloom ahead. We were upon the vessel in a moment.

A tremendous crash, grinding, tearing, splintering. The brig staggered,
seemed to stop suddenly, and then the deep, roaring note of the gale
smothered the rest.

We struck, fairly head on, swung to, glanced along the ship's side,
and were lying dismasted in the trough of the sea, our foremast over
the side, and nothing but the lower main mast standing. The seas tore
over us, and we lay like a log, while the shadow of the steamer passed
slowly astern.

The old man was on deck before I knew just what had happened. So also
was Slade. The smashing and grinding of the wreckage alongside told of
the spars; but we were too stunned to think of them.

Was the hull split open with that furious impact? That was the thought
in our minds. Ours was a wooden vessel--little, light, and very strong.
Did we ram our plank ends in? If so, we were lost men, all of us.

It was fully a half minute before we spoke of it. We knew just what to
do, but we were stunned for a few moments. Then we made for the main
deck, and tried the pumps. The water was coming in lively.

"All hands on the pumps!" came the skipper's order; and we manned the
brakes with the feeling that it was just a respite, just a little time
to lose. The men took to them with a will, however; but I had a sinking
feeling in the pit of my stomach, and I worked half-heartedly for a few
minutes, until I brought myself around with a jerk. I was mate. I had
the responsibility. And more than that--it had happened in my watch on
deck. I was the one who must do the most.

"Come along, bullies--get a couple of axes!" I roared, and made my way
to the weather fore channels, where the rigging of the topmast and
lower mast held the wreckage alongside, being drawn taut, as it were,
across the deck, the spars to leeward, and banging and pounding against
the ship with each surge. "Get into those lanyards!" and they chopped
away in the gray light of the morning, cutting everything they could,
and clearing the weather rigging of the strain.

The wreckage now hung by the lee rigging, and drifted farther aft. The
wheel was lashed hard down, and a bit of spanker raised again upon the
mainmast, the halyards still being intact, although the boom had been
broken by the shock. We soon had canvas on her aft, and she headed
the sea, dropping back from the wreckage to a mooring hawser bent to
the standing rigging of the foremast. We got a lashing to the foot of
the mast, and she dragged the mass broadside, making a lee of it, and
riding easily to the heavy seas, which now took her almost dead on her
bows.

When I had a chance to look about me again, the light of the morning
had grown to its full height, and we were able to see around us.

The gray light made things look almost hopeless for us. The pumps
worked full stroke, and the water gained rapidly on us. There had been
three feet made during the first half hour. We were settling, and the
brig was riding more heavily, taking the seas over her head with a
smothered feeling that told of what was coming.

I had a chance to breathe again, and I looked out over the gray ocean,
where the white combers rolled and the heavy clouds swept along close
to their tops. A large, black object showed to the westward of us, and
we recognized her as a steamer. She was very low in the water, and upon
her rigging floated the signal, "_We are sinking._" She was the one we
had run down.

The old man stood gazing at her as I came on the poop. He was trying
to make her out; and this he did finally, when the wind stretched her
flag in a direction so that we could see it plainly. She was one of the
Havana steamers bound up from Cuba, and was about five thousand tons.
Her number was that of the _William Rathbone_.

"No better fix than we are," snarled the skipper. "What was the matter?
Didn't you see him? He's big enough."

"Too dark," I said. "You know what kind of a night it was--look at it
now. We might do something if we were sure of floating ourselves--no
boat would live in this sea five minutes; but it'll smooth out,
maybe----"

"Maybe blow a hurricane!" howled the old man, his voice rising above
the gale. "Get the boats ready, anyhow--get the steward to put all the
grub he can get in them--too bad, too bad," he went on.

While Slade helped to get the boats ready for leaving the brig, I went
to the bow and tried to see just what damage we had done ourselves. It
was dangerous work, as the seas came over in solid masses, and more
than once I came near getting washed overboard. Splintered plank ends,
a crushed stem showed through the wreck of the bowsprit, which still
hung by the bobstays and shrouds, jammed foul of the catheads, so
that only the end swung, and struck us a blow now and then. It was a
hopeless mess.

A great sea rose ahead, with its crest lifting for a break, and I
ducked behind the windlass, holding on with both hands. The solid water
swept over the bows, and I was almost drowned; but I held on. There was
nothing I could do forward, and no men could work there. The steady
grind of the pumps took the place of desperate rushing about the decks.
The men stood in water to their knees as the seas swept her, but they
still kept it up. As fast as one man gave out another took his place,
regardless of watch; and the waiting ones chafed under the shelter of
the mainmast.

The boats were on booms over the forward house, where the seas could
not wash them away; and Slade had them all ready to leave, although it
was a study how to get them overboard in that sea with nothing forward
to raise them with. The mainstay still held, and the mainmast was
strong enough; but there was nothing forward at all above them. I went
aft and waited.

Old Captain Gantline was still standing at the poop rail watching
the steamer. Our drift was about equal to hers, and we sagged off to
leeward together, keeping about a mile apart. The steamer was settling.

"Of course, he ought to have gone clear of us!" howled the old man as
I came up. "I don't blame you, Mr. Garnett; I don't blame you--but you
certainly swung us off at the last minute when you knew the law was to
hold your course, and let him get out of our way."

"But he was dead ahead, sir. I saw his lights right aboard. To luff
meant to come to in that sea, and that would have been just as bad, for
he'd have struck us aft--probably cut us in two."

I really had done nothing out of the way. The steamer had not seen us,
that was certain. I was supposed, under the law, to hold on until the
last moment, and I had done so. I had only swung her off a little;
tried to clear when I saw he would not. I knew the law well enough,
and had followed it up to the moment of striking. Our swing off had
made our bows fetch up against the steamer, and had probably caused him
serious damage. But it had saved us from being cut down by her sharp
steel stem, which would have gone through our wooden side as if through
butter.

No, I did not feel guilty; although there were evidently some hundred
passengers and crew of that ship in dire peril and sore put to it. The
old man knew I had done the best thing I could for us, and there was no
possible way of avoiding a collision in a wild, thick night like the
last when the ships were invisible but a few fathoms distant.

We waited, and the brig settled slowly, while the wind still held
from the northeast, and the sea still ran strong and high. There was
apparently no chance for launching a small boat. The scud flew fast
and the gray wind-swept ocean looked ugly enough, the surface covered
with white. The steamer was slowly sinking, like ourselves, and it
was only a question whether either would go through the day or not. I
hoped that it would not come in the night. There's something peculiarly
nerve-racking in wild night work in a sinking ship. The very absence of
light lends terror to the already awful situation, and the wild rush of
the wind and seas makes chaos of the blackness about.

The day dragged slowly. It was like waiting for the end of the world.
The vessels drifted apart but another mile or two, and we were still
close enough to exchange signals. We had long ago run ours up, telling
that the same state of affairs existed aboard the brig. If some
passing coasting steamer came along, all might still be well with the
passengers and crews of both of us. But not a sign of anything showed
above the horizon.

At five o'clock--two bells--that evening, the brig was well down in the
water; and she was taking the seas nastily over her. The main deck was
all but impossible to remain upon, and the men at the pumps had to lash
themselves to keep there. It would be only a question of a few hours
now. The drawn faces told of the strain. Slade, the second mate, came
to me.

"All over but the shouting," he said. "How'll we ever get them boats
clear in this sea?"

"Better start now before it's too late," I said, and went to the old
man for orders.

"All right, get them over," said the old man, in answer to my question;
and we started on the last piece of work we were to do in that brig.

Bill, the West Indian negro; Wilson; Peter, the Dutchman; and Jones
were to row; and, with myself at the steering oar in command, made the
working crew. Besides these men we had three others, making eight men
all told for our boat. Slade went with the old man, dividing the little
crew up evenly.

We had a good crew. Long training in that little ship had made them
good men. But for their steadiness we would never have got those
boats clear. It was desperate work getting them over the side without
smashing them. With a tackle upon the main, however, we managed to lift
them clear and let them swing aft, lifting and guying them out by hand.
Then we dropped them over the quarter, and let them tow astern to the
end of a long line, and they rode free, being lighter than the ship and
pulling dead to leeward.

I was the first to leave, as became my place. The old man, as captain,
must be the last. I hauled the boat up, and we climbed in, jumping the
now short distance as she took the seas and rose close to the taffrail.
The brig was very low, and settling fast.

"Go to the steamer first," said the old man; "then head westerly until
you get picked up or get ashore. We are not more than one hundred and
fifty miles off--good-by."

I dropped over, and the line was cast off, letting the boat drift
slowly back, but still heading the sea so that she rode almost dry, in
spite of the combers.

The _Rathbone_ was in view about three miles distant, and by the weight
upon the four oars we held her so that she drifted off bodily in that
direction, while still heading well up to the wind. There was plenty
of light left yet, but there was a night coming, and I hoped we would
get a chance to board the big vessel before it was black dark. Perhaps
she was not so dangerously hurt as she looked.

I saw the old man's boat come away and take the general direction of
our own; but the seas were too high to see her often. She was evidently
making good weather of it, and I thanked the lucky stars that we had
whaleboats for our business, and not the tin things they use for
lifeboats in steamers.

By keeping the boat's head quartering to the wind and sea, she drifted
bodily off toward the _Rathbone_, and before dark we drew close aboard.

There was much action taking place on her decks as we came close enough
to see. Passengers ran about, and forms of seamen dashed fore and aft.
It was evident that they were hurrying for some purpose, and that
purpose showed as we noted the list to starboard the ship had. She was
very low forward, and seemed to be ready to take the final plunge any
moment.

Our boat had been pretty badly smashed getting her overboard, and she
was leaking badly from the started seams. In that strong, rolling sea
she had all she could do with the crew in her; and I fervently hoped
that I would not be called upon to take passengers. Four rowing and
three for relief was all right, but a dozen more would swamp her.

We came close under the _Rathbone's_ lee. She lay broadside to the sea,
and her high stern, raised as it were by her sinking head, shut off the
sweep of the combers.

"Steady your oars," I commanded, as we came within a few fathoms. A man
in uniform rushed to the ship's rail and hailed us through a megaphone.
He was followed by several passengers.

"Can you come aboard and help us?" he bawled. "We're sinking--all the
boats gone to starboard--captain killed and chief mate knocked on the
head by wreckage."

"Men have refused duty," howled a man standing near him. "Mutiny
aboard, and we're going down--come aboard and help us."

While they hailed, I noticed the boats to port going over the side. One
had already gone down, but she had fouled her falls, and had dropped
end up, smashing against the ship's side and filling. Struggling men
tried to clear her, but the sea was too heavy. A life raft was pushed
over the rail, and fell heavily close to us, held by a line. It surged
in the lee, and, as the ship drifted down, it struck her heavily,
smashing the platform.

"Don't go, sir," said Jake, in a voice that barely reached me.

"We'll have troubles enough of our own," said another.

"Shut up, there are passengers--don't you see the women?--we've got to
help them," I said.

I looked for the other boat. It was not in sight. The forms of two
women came to the rail, one a young girl.

"Throw me a line," I yelled to the man in uniform.

A small line came sailing across the boat. I seized it, and went
forward.

"Jake and you, Bill, come with me, the rest lie by--keep her clear
whatever you do," I said, and waved my hand to those above to haul
away. With the bowline under my arms, I was soon on deck. Then I helped
to haul my two men up.

"I'm the second," said the man in uniform; "but I can't make 'em do
anything. Just stretched one out when the rest knocked me over and took
to the boats."

Without delay we made our way along the port rail to amidships, where
the boats were being lowered. Men crowded around them, and fought for
places. The fireroom crew, white-skinned and partly clothed, their pale
faces dirty with coal dust, stood around the nearest boat, and worked
at the lashings, cursing, swearing, and shoving each other in the
suppressed panic of men who are hurrying from death.

The canvas covering was ripped off, and four men sprang into her,
the rest shoving her bodily outboard. The men at the falls howled
and swore, slacked off without regard to consequences, and the craft
dropped a few feet, then swung off, and came with a crash against the
side.

"Fine discipline," I said to the second mate, who was close to me.

A form touched my elbow. I turned, and saw a young girl.

"Aren't they going to take us along with them?" she asked quietly, but
with a voice full of pleading.

I looked at her. She was not over twenty, and very pretty. Her big eyes
were looking right into mine.

"Sure, lady, you shall go," I said.

Jake and Bill stood right behind me.

"Have you a gun?" I asked the officer.

"No; haven't got a thing--let's hoof 'em."

"Avast slacking that boat down," I roared, rushing in.

"Tell it to George," snarled a big fireman, shoving me aside.

I hooked him under the jaw with all my strength, and he staggered back.
Jake slammed the next man in the stomach, while the second officer
waded in now, striking right and left in the press.

"Get back--stand back!" we roared; and, for a wonder, forced our way
along the ship's side, taking the falls.

"Get a line below the block hook. Hold her off," came the order, and
some one passed a line at the after fall, while a man in the boat
pushed manfully against the ship's side to steady her.

"Now, then, slack away together," I yelled; and Bill, who had the
forward fall, slacked off with me, and the craft went rushing down just
as the ship rolled to leeward. She struck the sea, the block unhooked;
and, as the sinking ship rolled up, she fell clear, and hung to her
painter. We had got one down all right. The men then rushed.

Four of us fought back with all our might; but the weight of frantic
men was too heavy for us. We were forced back and down, struggling
under the crush of fighting firemen and seamen, who trampled, struck,
and then tore loose to slide down the hanging boat falls or jump over
into the sea, to climb in the floating craft below. The men below in
the boat saw they would be swamped by numbers, and cut the painter. She
drifted off, then crashed up against the ship's side, and finally swept
around the stern, where she met the sea. That was the last I saw of her.

With my clothes half torn off, oilskins hanging in rags, my face
bleeding, and utterly exhausted, I got to my feet, and we made for the
next boat. The press about her was not so great, and we managed to make
way against it. It was the last boat, and the remaining few men left
aboard were not enough to hold us. Among them were some passengers,
whom we got aboard--four of them--and then finally sent the boat down
clear. I looked around for the girl. Two women were in the boat, and
the second officer said there was another aboard. I was out of breath,
and stood panting a few moments, gazing aft through the bloom of the
evening trying to see what had become of that girl. She was not in
sight. I remembered she was near the other boat.

"I'll run aft and try to find her," I yelled, and rushed down the deck.

At the door of the saloon I saw a form huddled up on a transom just
inside.

"Come," I called roughly; "come along, quick--the boat's waiting."

"Oh, it's you," she said; and I saw it was the girl I was looking for.
She sat up. "Did you ever see such brutes?"

"Never mind that now. Get a move on--the boat won't wait."

As I spoke, I felt the ship drop suddenly forward. I turned quickly,
and gazed forward. It was almost dark now; but I could see the white
surge burst over the forecastle head.

"She's going," I yelled, and grabbed the girl.

A great sea crashed against the house, bursting it in, roaring,
smashing, and pouring like a Niagara into the saloon. The deck forward
had gone under, the stern was rising high in the air, and the slanting
deck told me there was not a second to lose.

The girl sprang up, and we dashed together to the taffrail, which was
now fully twenty feet above the sea. There was nothing below but that
life raft, the boats had gone to leeward to keep clear. Without a
moment's hesitation, I dropped the girl into the sea, and sprang after
her.

Hampered with my ragged clothes and oilskins, I could hardly swim a
stroke. A rushing comber struck me, and I felt myself going down,
unable to fight any longer. My breath was gone.

When I came to I was lying upon the life raft, and the girl was
clinging to me with one hand, and passing one of the lashings of the
raft with the other. It was black dark. Only the rushing seas about me
told of our whereabouts; and the wild flings of the raft as it swept
along with the rush made me aware of the present. I tried to see,
raised my head, and felt very weak.

"How'd we get here?" I asked.

"I grabbed you and pulled you up," she said simply. "You were hit on
the head by it--better tie yourself fast with that piece of cord, I
can't hold you any longer."

I took a few turns of the side lashings of the raft about our bodies,
and, as the seas washed us, I noticed that the water felt so much
warmer than the air. We were clear of the sea a few inches, but each
comber dashed over and soaked us, washing so heavily that it was
necessary to hold one's head up in order to breathe freely.

"Did you see the boats?" I asked. "They'll pick us up presently."

"No; I couldn't see anything. I had all I could do to pull you on the
raft. You're pretty heavy, you know. Then I had to hold you for what
seemed an hour, but maybe was only a few minutes. Do you think they'll
find us?"

"Sure. They wouldn't leave us. Ship went down, didn't it--rather
sudden, and they had to let go. My men will stand by if it takes all
night," I said.

"I sincerely hope you are right about it. I don't much fancy this raft
for a place to spend the night. Will we be drowned on it, do you think?"

"No fear; we're all right. It can't sink. All we have to do is to keep
a lookout for a boat and sing out for help. Why, there's five boats
altogether, counting ours. Five boats, and it's just dark, not after
six or seven o'clock at the most."

"How far from land are we?" she asked, seemingly cheered but still
somewhat doubtful.

"Not far," I lied. I thought of a hundred and fifty miles of floating
to get in--if the boats didn't pick us up. I began to experience that
sinking feeling that comes to many when the outlook seems pretty bad.

The girl was silent for some time after this, and seemed to be thinking
of her troubles, for once she gave a little gasp of complaint.

"Cheer up," I said; "don't give way to it yet. We'll be all right soon."

As the hours passed and no boat come near, I began to feel very
nervous. I could see but a few fathoms distant, and knew the chances
were growing less and less. I hailed the blackness, bawled out as loud
as I could, keeping it up at minute intervals. The wind seemed to be
going down, but the sea still ran quickly, and was high and strong,
lifting the raft skyward at each roll, and then dropping it down gently
into the hollow trough. We felt the wind only when on the top of the
seas, and it chilled us; but the warm edge of the Gulf Stream soaked
us, and we could stand it for a long time. The sea was as warm as milk.

How that long night passed I don't know. It seemed like eternity.
Several times I lost consciousness, whether from exhaustion or from the
blow I had received upon the head I cannot say. I held to the girl,
and together we stood it out. Our lashings kept us upon the piece of
platform remaining upon the two hollow iron cylinders comprising the
raft.

The girl lost her power of speech some time during the night, and
seemed to faint, her head dropping upon the slats of the platform.
I held it up to keep the water from her nose and mouth, and finally
propped her head so that little water broke over it. It was all I could
do.

The raft swung around and around, sometimes with the sea on one side
and then with it upon another. I felt for the oarlock, which is usually
placed at either end to steer by, but it was gone. So also were the
oars that had been placed between the cylinders and the platform. We
simply had a float, that kept us bodily out of the sea, and that was
all.

After hours and hours of this wild pitching and rushing upon the crests
of high, rolling seas, the motion began to get easier, and I noticed
that the wind was rapidly falling. The crests no longer broke with the
furious rush and tumble as formerly. Then the gray light of dawn came,
and I began to see about us.

The form of the girl lay alongside me, lashed to the platform. Her hair
trailed into the sea in long tresses from her head, and her face was
white as chalk. I thought she was dead, and shook her to see if there
was any life to stir up. She lay limp. I took her hand and felt the
wrist. A slight pulse told of the vital spark still burning. It seemed
brutal to arouse her, to bring her back to the horror of her position.
But I felt that it was best. I called to her, and she finally opened
her eyes. She shivered, placed one arm under her, and then raised
herself painfully into a sitting posture.

"Cut the cord around my wrist, will you, please?" she said. "I promise
not to fall off."

"Better let it stay," I said. "I'll loose it so you can move about a
little. Seems like they missed us in the dark."

"Well, do you still think they'll pick us up? See; it's light now, the
sun is coming up. I don't know as I care very much. Do you?"

"Sure I care. Why not? We'll be all right soon."

She let her head fall forward, and gave a little sob; just a bit of a
cry.

"Well, then I'm glad I pulled you out of the water," she said. "Seems
like we might just as well have gone during the night. Do you really
think it's worth struggling for like this? Life is good--and I want to
live--but this is too hard--too terrible--and my poor mother----"

"We'll be picked up before breakfast, sure," I said. "The boats must
have drifted just the same as ourselves. Something'll come along soon."

And yet deep down in me I knew that this was a bare chance. We were out
of the track of ships, well off shore for the coasters, and not far
enough for the Bermuda ships, like the _Rathbone_, which had stopped at
the island on her way north.

The sun rose, and daylight broadened into the morning. The wind fell
rapidly, and the sea began to get that easy run of the Atlantic when
undisturbed. I loosened my lashings and stood up, gazing about us.
The motion of the raft was still severe; but I could stand, balancing
myself. I shivered and shook with the wet and cold; but I now felt that
with the sun shining we would soon be in better straits. As the raft
rose upon the swells I looked all around the horizon. But there was
nothing; not a thing save the sea in sight.

"You can't see anything?" The girl's voice sounded strange, querulous,
and pitiful. She was sitting with her head bowed upon her hands, which
rested on her knees. Her wet dress clung to her, and she looked very
frail, very delicate.

"No; I can't see anything yet," I answered; "but we'll sight something
before long. Tell me, were you from Bermuda?"

"Yes; I was visiting my aunt there," she said. "I just graduated from
the convent of the Sacred Cross last month. I've never been anywhere,
or seen anyone, until this year. My mother is the only other near
relative I have living."

"Well, you've made a good start seeing things," said I, trying to smile
at her. She turned a little pink, just flushed a bit; but it gave her
white face a more natural look. She was a very pretty girl.

"How old are you?" I asked.

"Eighteen. Why?"

"Oh, nothing, only----"

I felt like a fool. Why should I bother this child about her age? She
had saved my life by dragging me upon the raft, and I would save hers,
if possible. It produced a feeling in me I could not quite understand.
I liked to hear her talk, to have her look at me. She was very pretty;
a good, innocent young girl.

"I could eat a house, roof, and foundation," I ventured finally,
seating myself. The wash of the sea now hardly reached us, and we were
drying out fast in the cool breeze and sunshine.

"Yes; I could eat a ship, masts, and spars," I went on.

"Well, I suppose I'll be tough enough," she said, glancing at me with
some show of fear in her eyes. "I once read of men on a raft who ate
each other; but I never thought it would be my turn. No, never."

"Don't be absurd," I said. "I don't intend to eat you--not yet."

She looked at me very hard. Her eyes were moist; big, lustrous eyes.
"No," she said seriously, "I don't believe you will," and she put her
hand in mine.

"Aw, don't be frightened, kid," I said. "I may look like the devil, but
I'm not."

And I sat there like an idiot holding that girl's hand, while the sun
rose and shone warmer and warmer upon us, drying our garments and
cheering us wonderfully. I had never met a girl of this kind before;
and it was something of a problem how I was to keep her alive and
cheerful on that raft. I swore fiercely at Jake, at Jones, and the rest
for leaving us adrift. My oaths were something strange to the girl, for
she shivered and drew her hand away.

"Please don't," she said quietly. "What good does it do to use such
language?"

"Eases me a lot, miss. What's your name?"

"Alice Trueman."

I mumbled the name a few times, then relapsed into silence. After that
there was nothing more said for a long time; but I saw her looking at
me at intervals. Evidently I was an animal she was not used to, and I
wondered at a mother who would bring up a girl to view a man as such a
terrible sort of creature. I was a rough sailor; but I was human.

The day advanced and the wind fell to a gentle breath. Then it became
quite still, a dead calm, while the swell rolled steadily in from the
eastward, but smoothed out into long, easy hills and hollows, upon
which the raft rode easily and the platform kept clear of the sea at
last.

We took turns standing up and looking about the surrounding waste
to see if there were any signs of a ship. Nothing showed upon the
horizon, and the day wore down to evening. We were both very hungry
and thirsty. I knew that the limit would soon be reached if there were
nothing to eat or drink. The sun was now warm, and we ceased shivering
as it settled in the west. The darkness of the night came on with its
terrors, and still there was no sign of help from anywhere.

"I really don't think I can stand it any longer, captain," said the
girl.

"I'm not the captain--just the mate," I answered; "but you'll have to
stick it out for the night."

Miss Alice gave a little sob. "I'm _so_ hungry and thirsty," she
wailed. And added plaintively: "I've never been hungry in my life
before."

"Probably not," I said, sitting close to her and taking her hand in
mine again. She made no resistance, and I passed my arm about her.
"You must remember you've seen very little of the world yet. I've been
hungry often--expect to be again before I go."

"You see, I've had everything in the world I wanted. My father died
very rich--and I can't stand the things people can who are used to
them," she lamented.

"Cheer up," I said. "While there's life there's hope, you know."

She gave a little sigh, and let her head fall back upon my shoulder.
And so we sat there in the growing darkness, together upon a raft in
the middle of the Atlantic. As I look back upon it, there seems to be a
bit of sentiment lacking. I felt nothing but pity for the girl at the
time. I wasn't the least unhappy. I wasn't the least disturbed, except
that hunger was gnawing at me and the fear the girl would die there.
Personally I was not displeased with the position. Such is youth.

"Alice," I said finally, "I find a lot of comfort in you being here
with me, but I honestly believe I could stand it better if you were
safe ashore. You've been a mighty brave little companion though."

She gave my hand a bit of a squeeze, and sighed like a tired child.
Then she closed her eyes.

I was aroused by a hail.

"Hey, there, aboard the raft!" came a yell from the darkness.

"Boat, ahoy!" I howled, in desperation, hardly believing my ears.

"Stand by and catch the line," came the yell again, and I jumped up and
stared into the gloom.

A dark spot showed close aboard. The sound of oars came over the water.
A man's voice hailed again, and I recognized Jones, my bow oarsman.

"Mr. Garnett----Is it you?" he cried; and a line came hurtling across
the platform, striking me in the face. I seized it, snatched a turn
upon one of the slats of the platform. The boat came alongside, while
they held her off with the oars and boat hook.

"A girl--one of the passengers, hey?" asked Jones. "Climb aboard, sir,
and we'll take her in all safe enough."

Wilson and Jones sprang upon the platform, and helped me lift the girl
to her feet. She opened her eyes at the motion, and gave a cry of joy.

"I'm so glad!" she said, and fainted dead away, while we placed her in
the stern of the whaleboat.

"Water, in the name of Heaven!" I panted. "You cowards! Why did you
leave us?"

"Hunted for you, sir, all night," said Jones, getting at the water
breaker and measuring out a full quart. I held it to the lips of the
girl, and she revived enough to drink part of it. I drank the rest, and
drew another measure, drinking it off in a gulp.

"Grub," I said, without further ado; and, while they shoved clear of
the raft, I took a share of the ship's biscuit, eating ravenously.

"Sit up and chew a bit of bread," I said to Miss Alice.

She raised herself with an effort, and soon recovered sufficiently to
eat something. Then she nestled close to me, let her head fall again
upon my shoulder, and went to sleep like a tired child.

We were heading almost due west for the coast now, and could not be
very far away from coastwise traffic. I felt that the end would soon
come, and that we would be picked up.

Before midnight a light showed ahead. It was a steamer's headlight, and
I soon made out her green light, showing she was heading north, inside
of us. We would pass very close.

"Give way strong; give way together. Let's get out of this," I said;
and the men set to the oars.

The light grew brighter, the green still showing. Soon the black form
of the ship's hull showed through the gloom, her masthead light now
looming high in the air, and her side light close aboard. We were
drawing in, and I stood up and bawled out for help. The black bulk of
her hull towered over us, and for an instant it seemed that she would
run us down.

"Hold--back water--hold hard!" I yelled, and the men obeyed.

The ship tore past us, the foam of her bow wave splashing into the
boat. I roared out curses upon the men above in her. Then she went on
into the night. I howled, swore at her, called her skipper every name
I could devise. The men seconded me, and together we called down enough
curses upon that ship to have sunk her. Suddenly she seemed to slow up,
to stop, and then lay dead in the gloom.

"Row, you bullies, row for your lives!" I yelled; and the men gave
their last spurt, putting their remaining strength into the pull. We
drew closer, and a voice hailed us from the ship.

"Ship ahoy!" I called again. "Throw us a line and stand by to pick us
up."

We came alongside. A line was dropped down, and Jones seized it,
snatched a turn, and we were fast. The ship was wallowing slowly ahead;
but we hung alongside safe enough.

"Pass down a bowline," I sang out; "and be quick about it."

The line came down into the boat, and I slipped it over the head of
Miss Alice Trueman, jamming it under her arms.

"H'ist away on deck," I directed; and the girl went aloft. The rest of
us came one after the other.

"I can't take your boat, sir," said the captain; "haven't any room."

"Forget the boat. Give me something to eat and drink, and a place to
lie down for a few weeks," I said, and I was led below.

       *       *       *       *       *

Two days later we were at the dock in New York. I had not seen Alice
since she had been turned over to the care of the stewardess; but I
waited for her to come on deck. She came, pale but self-possessed.
She was still weak, but was now nearly recovered. The ship was being
warped to the pier, and it would be a few minutes before we could leave
her. I came up and held out my hand.

"Well," I said, "Alice, how about it? You were a good companion in
trouble, a brave shipmate in the face of terrible danger. Somehow it
has drawn me to you. I want to see you again."

"Always, Mr. Garnett; always will I be glad to see you--but do you
think it wise under the circumstances? Don't you think we had better
say good-by now? It will only be more difficult later on. You know what
I mean----"

She looked up at me with moist eyes--eyes that told so much. I was
taken all aback; but I understood. I was only a sailorman, a mate of
a sailing ship. She was an heiress--a lady, as they say, educated and
refined. She couldn't make me what she knew I would have to be to
retain her respect and love, the love she would want to give. It was
for my own good she was saying good-by. Yes, I believe she meant it
only for that.

"Sure, girl, I was only fooling," I said, with my throat choking so
that the blamed ship reeled and swung about me.

"Believe me, it's best so," she whispered, looking at me strangely with
eyes now full of tears. She held out her hand, raised her head, put up
her lips.

"Kiss me good-by. You were awful good to me. Good-by."

I felt that kiss burn my lips for many a day--yes, for a long time.



THE AFTER BULKHEAD


After coming home from the East I had, like many other ship's officers,
taken up steam. There was more in it than the old wind-jammers, and the
runs were short in comparison. It was not long before I went in the
Prince Line, as they needed navigators badly.

I was chief mate of the liner, and it was my unpleasant duty to do
about everything. Old Man Hall, captain and R. N. R. man, did little
beside working the ship's position after we got to sea. Ashore, he left
everything to Mr. Small and myself, as far as the ship was concerned,
and if there were a piece of frayed line, a bit of paint chafed, we
heard all about it within two hours after he came aboard.

Small was second under me, while the third and fourth officers were
hardly more than apprentices, both being for the first time in the ship
and not more than twenty-one or two years of age.

Captain Hall was nearly seventy, and somewhat decrepit, but he was an
accurate navigator, and had kept his record clean, making one hundred
runs across the Western Ocean without accident. Masters of merchantmen
are good or bad, according to their records, according to their
reputations. Some said Hall had excellent luck. But, anyway, he was a
good man, a fair-minded skipper, and he always brought in his ship on
schedule, which was saying a good deal, for the Prince Line steamers
were not noted for keeping close to time--any old time was good enough
for most of them until the _Prince Gregory_, of twenty thousand tons,
came along and made the lubbers look up a bit.

She was the largest ship of the fleet--which comprised ten good
steamers--and she was fitted with all the modern conveniences, from
telephones to wireless, had a swimming pool, barber shop, gymnasium,
café, and elevators to the hurricane deck.

With only four watch officers, and six cadets, who were about as useful
as a false keel on a trunk, I had enough to do before clearing.

The chief engineer was an American, for a wonder, and his six
assistants, including donkey man, were Liverpool cockneys. They drove a
swarm of fire rats and coal passers that would have made a seaman crazy
in two days, but Smith took things easy below, and, although he had to
push her to keep the new record, he let his assistants do the heavy
work. That's the reason he grew so fat--grew fat and even-tempered,
while poor Small and myself sweated out our lives after the usual
routine.

We had forty men in the crew, and needed more, for we often had a
thousand emigrants in the steerage. Sometimes we carried bunches of
those big chaps from the European forests, Lithuanians, strong, sturdy
brutes, totally without sense.

It was in December that we took over five hundred of them on board, and
while I was polite as possible, I put Small wise to keep a lookout on
the critters. They were miners, for the most part. Contract men, going
to the mines in Pennsylvania.

By some means a quantity of their baggage got below with that of the
cabin passengers. We had a lot of cabin folks that voyage. There was
a bunch of actors, men and women you hear at the opera, drummers
galore, buyers who were coming home from the fall trading, several
millionaires; and, among the society or upper-strata people, the ones
without occupation to give them distinction, were the Lady Amadoun and
her following.

Lady Amadoun was American born, but French by adoption, or, rather,
marriage, preferring in her youth the suave manners of older
generations to the rougher ones of her own countrymen. Raoul, Vicomte
Amadoun, her husband, had not turned out the soft and gentle creature
he appeared before marriage. In fact, he had followed the usual
time-worn game of demanding money at unusual crises, which, as you
know, has a tendency to make intelligent women think twice before
coming across with it. The Vicomtesse Amadoun, or countess, as they
called her, was young; in fact, looked hardly twenty-five--but, of
course, a countess has maids to fix her up a bit!

You see, being first officer, and sitting at the head of my own table
in the saloon, the countess came under my observation more than I
intended. Old Hall had his own cronies, who sat with him, and Driggs,
the steward, gave the most prominent passenger my right-hand seat--sort
of compliment. Driggs was a good steward, and owed his place to my
exertions in his behalf.

It was about this confounded baggage that I had a chance to further
acquaint myself with nobility, for the trunks of the countess--and she
had about fifty, including those of her friends who came with her--got
mixed with the stuff that the baggage-master had sent by mistake to the
first-class baggage room--the unlovely dunnage of the human moles who
were roosting low in the steerage, and paying two pounds sterling a
head for the privilege.

"I would take it as a great favor if you would allow me to get into my
baggage by to-morrow at the latest," said the countess, beaming upon me
from the adjacent seat at my table at dinner that day. "You see, we've
been all over Europe, and while traveling through Russia I picked up
some very pretty furs, which will be nice to use on deck during this
cool sea weather."

"Madam," said I, "I shall be at your service right after eight bells
to-morrow, when I leave the bridge." So I warned the baggage man,
below, to have the place cleaned out a mite, so that her ladyship
could go below without getting her frock spoiled from contact with the
steerage passengers or their belongings.

To be sure that he would do my bidding--he belonged to the purser's
force--I went below that morning, and looked the baggage over myself.
I passed in through the steerage, and noted the men stowed there. Two
big brutes of Lithuanians sat upon their dunnage, and jabbered in their
language.

"Hike!" I said abruptly to the pair. "Git away from the baggage, and
let the trunk slingers dig up."

"Oh, Mister Mate, Mister Chief, we have our trunks here, also, and want
to get to them," answered one fellow in fairly good lingo.

"Beat it!" I ordered. "Make a get-away as quick as you can. Only
first-class passengers can take their baggage out, or get a look-in.
Why, you lubber, if every one of you steerage rats wanted to get into
your trunks, it would take about fifteen hundred stewards and baggage
men to take care of you."

"But it is of great importance that we see our things--there are some
things in my trunk I must get at, some important things----"

"Try and fergit them until next Wednesday, when they can be dumped on
Ellis Island; nuff sed--no more lingo--beat it!"

The pair went away in very ugly humor, and I started the work of
clearing that baggage room of their dunnage, and trying to select the
trunks of the countess from the raffle. I managed to get about twenty
of them, and let it go at that.

The next day I took the countess below, and personally showed her over
the trunks. She was accompanied by the count and her maid.

"Now, Marie, which trunk was it in, _ma chère_? You must remember it
very well," she said, looking at the mass of baggage.

"_Mais oui_, it must be that grand affaire--that beeg one--see!" And
the maid pointed to an immense Saratoga trunk, big enough to hold the
clothes of a full man-o'-war's crew.

The baggage master and I pulled the trunk out of the ruck, and the
count produced a bunch of keys.

I sauntered over to the other side of the room, where the gratings
separated the steerage from the rest. The two fellows I saw there
yesterday were watching through the slats, and did not notice me.

"_Deux cent_," said one, in a whisper.

"Whew, _mon Dieu_----"

I knew that there was something about two hundred, but just what I
couldn't quite log. My lingo goes mostly to Spanish and Chink, having
sailed to those countries.

The countess asked me to move the big trunk to the side of the ship.
I did so without seeing the reason for the extra work, but the lady
was gracious, and there was really no reason for not doing it. Two
other trunks were opened, and the furs brought out. Then the lady
went on deck again, after thanking me most profusely. Raoul was more
reticent. He was not the tongue-lashing Frenchman he looked. He seemed
preoccupied; but all very rich and powerful men seem that way to me,
and after all I was but the chief officer. Perhaps the skipper would
have drawn him out more.

Nothing happened until we were within sight of the Nantucket Shoals
lightship. That night the countess and her husband were on deck, and,
the air being cool, they were well wrapped in furs. I watched them
from the bridge. They kept well forward, near the starboard forward
lifeboat. That was my boat under the drill orders, and I remembered it
afterward.

It was about two bells--nine o'clock in the evening--when there was a
most terrific roar from below. The ship shook as though torn asunder.
As I gazed aft, the deck seemed to rise and blow outboard. Something
struck me heavily, and I was down and out for a few minutes. When I
arose with ringing ears, I looked aft again, hardly realizing that I
was awake and not dreaming. The siren was roaring full blast, and a
throng of men and women were rushing forward toward the bridge. Old
Hall came out of his room half dressed, and ran to me.

"What is it--what's happened?" he yelled in my ear.

"Don't know," I howled, and even then I didn't believe I was awake.

The chief engineer ran up.

"Starboard engine room full, sir--something blowed up below--whole side
gone above water line--won't float ten minutes," he howled.

"For God's sake, shut off that siren, then!" yelled old man Hall. Then,
turning to me, he ordered: "Stand by the boats, and get the passengers
out."

In a few minutes the roar of the steam stopped. Hall stood calmly upon
the bridge, and gave the orders for the small boats, and away they went
one after the other. The wireless was sending its call for help, but
there was no time for us to listen to replies; we had plenty to do.

The _Prince Gregory_ settled slowly by the stern, and raised her bows
high in the air. There she stopped, and, for a wonder, did not fall
from under us.

"Get into the boat, quick!" I said to the countess, and she sprang with
amazing ease into the stern, followed by her husband and the maid.

"Nix on the men!" I yelled, and grabbed the count. "Come out--women
first," and I dragged him from the boat with no show of deference. He
struck me savagely in the face, and I stretched him out with the boat's
tiller. Seamen tossed him aside, and the swarm of women crowded up and
into the craft while I held the men back as best I could.

I knew it was to be a close haul. Seven hundred men and women, and only
twenty boats! The life rafts would be doing duty pretty soon, and no
mistake.

I saw very little of the fracas around me, as one never does see much
if he is tending to his own business, and mine at that time was getting
forty-five women into a small boat, many of them in before she was
lowered away.

Luckily there was no sea running at all. It was calm and foggy, the
water like black oil.

I slid down the falls, and when we loaded up I took command at the
tiller, and went out a little distance to clear the wreck in case of
trouble. We lay at rest a hundred fathoms distant, and watched the
scuffle aboard. Men yelled like mad, screamed, and fought. I caught
the flash of a gun, and heard the report. I knew Hall would not stand
for lawless rushing the boats, and was doing some fierce work. Pretty
soon the outcry died away more and more, and still the black hull
showed plainly, her bow still pointing skyward, and her stern submerged.

"God's blessing, there's no wind or sea!" I said to Driscoll, my stroke
oarsman.

"You're right there, cap," said he. "What wus ut anyway?"

"Blessed if I knew--she's just blowed up, whole stern gone out of her.
She can't float two hours, and there'll be no one out here before
daybreak if they do get the signal."

"You brute!" exclaimed the countess, who was sitting close to me. "Why
didn't you let my husband come in this boat?"

"If he was a man, he wouldn't have wanted to," I snapped, hot at the
insult.

"I notice _you_ are here, all right, you ruffian!" she retorted,
sneering. "What do you call yourself?"

I thought best not to answer her. Words with women are generally
wasted, and the woman always gets the last one, anyhow. The countess
had always been so courteous and gentle that I supposed the excitement
had turned her head; and then, after all, I had treated her husband
a bit rough. He was a gentleman, and I was only a mate. That made a
difference in her point of view, although I can't say it did so much in
my own.

I talked to Driscoll, and watched the _Prince Gregory_ as she lay there
in the oily sea. Boats came and went toward the light vessel, and,
thinking it would be a good thing to get rid of my cargo, I trailed off
after the bunch, and was soon alongside the lightship.

As fast as we could, we sent the women aboard, finding that the little
ship would hold hundreds of passengers, in spite of her diminutive
size. Inside of half an hour, she had fully five hundred people in her,
and was jammed to the rails, below and on deck. Still, it was better
than an open boat, and I kept bringing them by scores, until there
were no more, save a few boatloads, and these we kept afloat in the
lifeboats.

During this time I thought little, or not at all, about the count.
The ship still hung by her after bulkhead, and Lord knows the man who
set it in her deserves praise enough. How it stood that strain is a
wonder to this day. If there had been any sea running she would have
gone down like a stone, for no unbraced cross-section of a ship can
stand the surge of ten thousand tons in a seaway. It must have burst
like blotting paper when wetted down. With ten men--all second-class
passengers--in my boat besides the crew, I went back to the ship for
the last time, and watched old man Hall as he stood upon the bridge.
I could just make him out through the hazy gloom of the night, but I
could hear his voice distinctly, as he gave orders to the few men who
stayed with him.

"Do you want any more help, sir?" I asked, coming alongside.

"What's that--you, Jack?" he answered. "No, I reckon not. She'll hang
on for hours, if the weather remains calm like this. All the passengers
safe?"

"All aboard the lightship, or hanging to her by painters--there's a
line of boats half a mile long trailing on behind her, and they're safe
enough, as they can't get lost as long as they hold to her. Tide runs
hard here on the edge of the Stream, but her wireless is going right
along, and she says two cutters left Boston half an hour ago, under
full steam--ought to be here before late in the morning, anyway. Never
lost a man, hey?"

"No," says he, "not that I know of; and that's some remarkable, too."

I thought it was, also, but said nothing more for a few moments,
watching the half-sunken hull slowly rolling from side to side in the
smooth swell.

While I watched I saw the form of a man coming from aft, along the
rail of the main deck, which was just awash. As every one had left the
after part of the ship and the engine room abandoned, I thought this
strange, and watched the figure until it came almost amidships. Then it
disappeared in the cabin.

"More men aft, sir?" I asked Hall, who still stood leaning upon the
bridge rail, waiting for help.

"No, no one left aboard--just Jenkins and his crew of four men--myself,
that's all." Jenkins was carpenter.

"Saw a man coming from aft, sir--must be some passenger overlooked.
Shall I jump up, and see to him?"

"All right," came the response, and almost before he spoke the men who
waited on their oars shoved the boat astern until she was almost level
with the sunken deck. I sprang out of her, and sung to them to lie by
and keep clear of the captain's boat, which lay alongside, just forward
of us, waiting until the old man found it necessary to leave.

I made my way in through the passageway to the saloon, and found the
deck still clear of water, although the sucking roar and surge of the
sea beneath told of the immense volume in the lower decks. The lights
had long gone out, with the drowning of the dynamos, and I felt for a
cabin door, intending to grab one of the emergency candles which are
always in place on the bulkheads.

I found one, and struck a light; then made my way along the passage in
front of the lower staterooms, calling at intervals for any one who
might be near and unable to realize the peril of a foundering ship. I
admit it was some ticklish. I had my hair raised more than once when
the ship took a more than usually heavy roll, and the rushing thunders
below started with renewed force. What if she should drop? It was a bad
thought, and not tending to still my pulse. I couldn't help thinking of
the thousand fathoms or so of blue sea beneath my feet----

I thought I heard a footstep crossing the passage in front of me. It is
strange how, above the general thunder of rushing water, a slight sound
makes itself evident. It was like standing upon the shore during the
running of a heavy surf. One can almost talk in a whisper while the
thunder reverberates along the coast.

A shadow crossed in front of me, and I hailed again. It was a man, and
he was coming from below, from the sunken lower decks. He came up the
staircase of the lower saloon, and darted along the passageway to port.

"Hey, there! Stop!" I yelled.

The man turned, and in an instant I recognized him. It was the Vicomte
Raoul.

He eyed me with a savage look, and waited for me to come up.

"What ees it you want?" he growled.

"Just you!" I told him. "Don't you know you are in danger of getting
killed down here?"

"And how does that matter interest you?" he retorted, with those
shrugging shoulders and arched eyebrows he could handle so well.

"It don't, except that, as I'm an officer, it's my duty to see you
leave the ship under orders of the captain."

"I noticed you were not so queek to have me leave dees sheep when
I first started," he sneered, "and eef I go back for my jewels, my
valuables, eet ees no affaire of yours--eh?"

"It is only to the extent that I must see you off the vessel," I said.

We were standing near the after companionway, and I noticed the
splintered planking, where the force of the explosion had blown it
upward. It was directly over the baggage room, where the trunks were
stowed below. This was now under six to ten feet of clear water.

"If you want to get into your trunks, you will have to be a good
diver," I said. "There's no chance in the world of getting below
here--she's flooded full to the after bulkheads number four in the wake
of the starboard engines. You couldn't do a thing below if you got
there."

In a more courteous tone, the count explained:

"Eet is a matter of small valuables in my room, not my trunk. Go along
like a good fellow, and I will follow instantly. I just go below to my
room--I come with you instantly--go!"

"Well, I'll wait here if it don't take too long," I said. "It's against
orders, and if anything happens to you I'll get it, all right. Hurry
up, and beat it back--the boat's waiting, and the ship'll drop any
minute. It's only that number four bulkhead holding her."

"Ah, yes, dat number four! Eet ees just at my stateroom door, zat
number four you call heem. Wait, my good fellow, I come immediate," and
he went down the companionway, which was knee-deep at the bottom in sea
water.

He splashed through the shallow wash, and disappeared along the
gloomy passage, where the candlelight failed. I stood above and
waited, holding my breath at times, and cursing the luck that made
me weak enough to allow him to do such a foolish thing as go below
for valuables. However, I had treated him pretty rough at the first
getaway, and felt he had a right to some consideration.

Suddenly I remembered that his stateroom was not below on that
main deck! It seemed to me he had rooms forward and above; but the
excitement had caused me to forget this detail, and I was so taken up,
even at the time, that I only remembered it in a half-dazed way. What
did he want below, then?

I waited, and the minutes flew by, seeming long enough. The candle ran
its hot grease down upon my hand, and burned it. I was getting sore and
impatient at the wait. If anything happened, I could never be given a
reprimand, for I would never show up to receive it. The ship would go
down and take me with her, all right enough. I hadn't a chance in the
world--and I was waiting there for a count, a man who had sprung into
the mate's boat to get clear, when there were hundreds of women waiting
and screaming to go!

There was a sharp explosion from below. The ship shook a little, and
rolled to port.

"Just Heaven! Did that bulkhead go?"

A form tore down the passageway, splashed through the water at the foot
of the companion, and was upon me in an instant. Raoul struck me fairly
between the eyes, and I went down to sleep--that was all I remember
of the inside of the _Prince Gregory_, as she lay foundering off the
Shoals.

When I came to, I was in the boat, with Driscoll bending over me and
pouring sea water upon my head. The dark stain showed me that I was
bleeding fast, and the sailor tore off the sleeve of his jumper, and
tied it about my forehead. I tried to sit up, but everything swam and
rolled about me horribly. Finally I managed to get my head up.

"What's happened?" I asked.

"Bulkhead gave way, sir," he told me. "You was hit on the head by
wreckage. I run in after you, an' jest managed to git you clear. She's
gone, sir!"

"What! The ship?" I cried.

"Sure, sir."

"And the old man--Jenkins, and the rest of them?"

"All got clear just in time--seems like Jenkins and his gang were at
the bulkhead from forrards, trying to shore it up, when _bing!_ she
went, and them as was left beat it--all got clear, sir."

"See anything of a passenger--that chap we had a run-in with at the
first getaway?" I asked.

"Yes, sir; one man got away in the skipper's boat--that's them headin'
for the lightship over there," and he pointed to a blur that showed
through the hazy night. I began to gather my senses again, but I
couldn't make head or tail of it. What did that fellow nail me for? I
had hit him, to be sure; but that was for a purpose. He surely intended
to fix me, all right. About a minute more, and I would have gone with
the ship.

"Cowardly rat!" I whispered.

"Who?" asked Driscoll.

"That white-livered dog who knocked me out," I said, gritting my teeth
at the thought.

"Better lie quiet, sir; better keep still--you're bug a bit, but will
be all right to-morrow. Does it hurt you much, sir?"

"Shut up!" I commanded ungratefully, and Driscoll gazed at me
sorrowfully, pulling away again at his oar, for we were now almost to
the lightship.

All that night we lay trailing astern. There was a long line of
lifeboats reaching nearly half a mile back, all hanging to the taffrail
of the ship.

About daylight she got in touch with a passing passenger ship, bound
in, and while we were busy shifting the hundreds of passengers the
cutters showed up, and helped to expedite matters by towing the small
boats. Before breakfast time we had all the outfit aboard and away for
New York. Hall and myself went aboard the cutter _Eagle_. We waited
for several hours, to see if there were anything more to find drifting
about, and then away we went for home, thanking the captain of the
Nantucket Shoals lightship for what he had done.

"I don't understand it at all--don't seem to be just right," repeated
Hall over and over to the captain of the cutter. "She just blew
up--that's all there is to it. We had a drove of miners aboard, and you
know how hard it is to keep those fellows from carrying explosives in
their dunnage. You simply can't stop to search them. There was probably
a couple of hundred pounds of blasting powder, at the least--went off
like a mine blowing up a battleship. That bulkhead in the wake of the
starboard engine room saved us--that's all!"

I was out of a ship. When we got in, the manager laid me off for a
month, and then gave me the second greaser's berth on the old _Prince
Leander_, a bum ship--and that's a fact. When I reached the other
side again, I saw by the papers that a certain Frenchman had tried to
collect nearly a million francs on his insurance for cargo and personal
belongings in the _Prince Gregory_. It seems that he had shipped tons
of expensive machinery and had insured it fully. The stuff was cased
tightly, but one case marked for him had broken while being handled on
the dock, and nothing but bricks fell out.

The insurance companies held up the claim. I hurried to the consul's
office, and told of the episode of the trunk, and how I was hit
over the nut by a certain French gentleman during the fracas. The
description answered to the man of machinery, and when I told of that
last little crack I had heard below, the consul waited not on the order
of his going, but ordered a cab and fairly threw me into it. We tore to
the office of the underwriters, and I told my tale. Then I began to see
the light, at last.

It was the old game tried under a new guise--and it had nearly cost the
lives of a half thousand human beings. The horror of it appalled me,
and I found myself wondering if I were to be trusted about without a
nurse again. However, I was not censured severely. The crook was well
known to the police, and since then the police of many countries have
been trying to locate a gentleman who answers to the description of the
Vicomte Raoul de Amadoun.



CAPTAIN JUNARD


Captain Junard awoke suddenly from a sound sleep. He listened intently
for a few moments. The steady vibrations of the ship's engines told of
the unchecked motion, the unhindered rush of the ship through the sea.
Yet something had awakened him, something had given him a start from a
dreamless sleep, the sleep of a tired man. He knew that something was
wrong, felt it, and wondered at it, while his heart began to sound the
alarm by its increasing pulsations. He wondered if he were sick, had
eaten something that might produce nightmare; but he felt very well,
and knew he never started at trifles. His hand reached for the revolver
at the head of his bunk. He always kept it there for emergencies. It
was a heavy forty-five, with a long, blue barrel--a strong weapon that
had stood him handily in several affairs aboard the steamer. The light
in his room was dim, but there was enough of it to show him that his
room was empty. His hand reached the spot where the weapon usually
hung, but failed to reach it. He groped softly for several moments.
There was nothing upon the bulkhead; the gun was gone.

This fact made a peculiar impression upon him. He felt now that
his instinct was correct, that he was indeed in danger. His mind
cleared quickly from the stupor of sound sleep, and he remembered.
He was carrying papers of peculiar importance in his strong box, or
safe--papers relating to a deal in shipping connected with a revolution
in a Central American state. A rival line had tried to stop the affair,
which grew into political importance when secret agents of the United
States tried to find out how deeply it might affect the Panama Canal.
The concession had not been granted. The Canal Zone was not yet in
existence, and the United States was sure to get it if this deal went
through. The president had watched the affair with hungry eyes. Now the
papers were in his--Junard's--possession, aboard his ship, bound for
the state department in Washington.

Junard started up when he found his hand missing the butt of that
revolver. It had been a pleasant fancy to him when he remembered its
solid grip and deadly accuracy, a dependable friend in the hours of
darkness and distress. Now it was gone, and could not have gone without
some one having taken it. If they took it, they took it to keep him
from using it. The idea of its loss awakened him more than anything
else, and sent his heart beating fast as with sudden quickness and
energy he sprang from his bed. There was nothing in his room, nothing
at all. The lamp burned low. The electrics had been switched off, as
they gave too much light for him to sleep in. Junard stood wondering,
studying, and gazing at his safe, which lay bolted to the deck in a
corner of his room.

The captain's room was just abaft the pilot house, as is usual in
ships of that class. A stairway, or companion, of five steps led to
the pilot house, but these were cut flush with his room and into the
floor of the house above, so that he could shut the door. The door was
shut now as he looked, but the sound of the steering gear told him
that the man at the wheel, within a dozen feet of him, was steering
and attending apparently to his business. The room ran clear across
the superstructure, opening with a door upon either side. To starboard
was his bathroom, to port was a closet, which adjoined the room of the
chief officer, being separated from it by the bulkhead. Both these
rooms led aft and opened into his room by doors in the bulkhead. This
made his room a complete section of the superstructure about twelve
feet deep and running clear through. There was nothing in it that could
hide any one. A table, a couch with leather cushions, several chairs,
and a large desk completed the furniture. His bed was a large double
bunk let in to port and hung with curtains. It somewhat resembled an
old four-poster bed.

Junard walked quickly to the safe. It was locked. He smiled at himself.
The absurdity of the thing almost made him laugh. And yet he was as
nervous as a ship's cat when watching a strange dog. He opened the door
leading to the pilot house. The man in there was standing in regulation
pose, with his hands upon the spokes of the steam steering gear. The
sudden rattle and clank told Junard the fellow was awake and alert.
The dim light from the binnacle made his outline plainly discernible,
and Junard recognized him as Swan, a quartermaster of long service and
excellent ability.

"How's she heading, Swan?" whispered the captain.

"No'the, two east, sir," said the man, with a slight start. The words
had come to him from the gloom behind him, and he had not heard the
door open.

"That's right; they haven't reported the Cape yet?"

"No, sir; but that's Cape Maysi, sir, I think," said Swan, pointing
to a light that had just begun to show right over the port bow. Eight
bells struck off upon the clock in the house as he spoke, and the
cry came from forward. The chief mate, who was on watch, came to the
pilot-house window, reached in, and took out the night glasses. He
adjusted them and gazed at Cape Maysi. Captain Junard watched him
narrowly, and noted that he took the bearings and made the remark
in his order book. Mr. Jameson was a good officer and a first-class
navigator, and Junard did not wish to appear on deck until he was
called. It looked as if he did not trust the officer sufficiently. He
would wait until the light was reported officially.

When Junard turned to reënter his room, he heard a slight noise. There
was a rustle, a whirl, and the door of the room to port clicked to. It
had been shut when he jumped from his bunk. He gazed in the direction
of the safe, and saw that it was now standing wide open, the door
swinging slowly with the motion of the ship. He sprang to the switch
and turned on the light, full power.

In front of him was the safe, with the door open. In front of the safe
lay a huge knife, and alongside of the knife lay his revolver, fully
loaded, and cocked. Whoever had it was ready to use it upon a moment's
notice. The intruder had fled at the sound of Junard's steps upon the
pilot-house companion.

Junard was a very heavy-set man. He stood but five feet two inches, but
was at least three feet across the shoulders, an immense man for his
height, his chest being as broad and hairy as a gorilla's. His powerful
legs were set wide apart to steady himself to the ship's motion, and
for a brief instant he stood there in the full light, clothed in his
pajamas. Then, with a roar like that of a bull, he plunged headlong for
the lattice door of his room, and, bursting it with a crash, reached
the deck in full stride. He just caught sight of what appeared to be
a skirt, switching around the corner of the deck house, and he leaped
savagely for it. He reached the corner, swung around it--and saw no
one. Down the alleyway he ran, swung about, and came out to port upon
the deck. There was not a soul to be seen, and he hesitated an instant
which way to run. Then he ran aft with prodigious speed, and, within a
couple of seconds, reached the cabin companionway. The light burned at
the head of the broad stairs, but not a soul was in sight. He dashed
inside silently, being barefooted, and, peering over the baluster, he
saw the steward on watch peacefully snoring away in a chair near the
water-cooler at the foot of the stairway.

"Sam!" he called sharply.

The man awoke with a start.

"Aye, aye, sir!" he said, looking about him, recognizing the captain's
voice, but not seeing him at once.

"Has any one come down this way within the last few minutes?" asked
Junard.

"No, sir, not a soul, sir."

"Sure?"

"Sure, sir. I've only been dozing but a minute. I'd have seen 'em, sir."

Junard slipped away quietly, leaving the under-steward wondering what
he wanted. With amazing swiftness, the master rushed back to his room.
He reached it, and went inside the broken door. The light was still
burning, but the safe was now closed. He tried the combination lock,
and found it had been locked. The gun and knife had also disappeared.
The room was in perfect order, the light burning full power, and there
was not a thing to show that there had been an entry made. The bursted
door was the only sign of any irregularity. He stood gazing at the safe
for a few minutes. The thing was almost uncanny. He began to wonder
if he had not had a nightmare, dreamed the whole thing. He turned the
combination of the safe, and opened the door again. The contents of the
safe were apparently intact. He reached for the inner drawer, where the
important papers had been kept. They were gone.

It was not nightmare, after all. The thing was real. The papers had
been taken from the safe, and they were worth perhaps a million to the
finder, if not much more; that is, if they could be gotten out of the
ship and into the hands of those who were antagonistic to the deal. He
pondered a few minutes more, and then decided to go on deck and stand
the next watch upon the bridge, remaining there, with the excuse that
the cape was drawing abreast and he would take his departure from it.
He decided not to say anything to either officer. The thing had best
be kept secret, for the very existence of the papers might imperil his
company, if that existence were known to certain parties. He hastily
dressed and went on the bridge.

Mr. Dunn, the second officer, was now on watch, and it was about a
quarter of an hour past midnight. The cape was drawing up, and was fast
approaching the port beam. The ship was running about sixteen knots
through a smooth sea, with a stiff northeast trade blowing almost dead
ahead.

Junard came to where the second officer stood. Mr. Dunn turned and
spoke to him, remarking upon the blackness of the night and the
clearness of the Cape Maysi light.

Captain Junard said nothing, but watched the second officer narrowly,
and tried to fathom his demeanor, looking for some sign that might show
a knowledge of what had transpired aboard within the past few minutes.
Dunn had been upon the bridge when that safe was shut, when the
revolver had been taken away. Yet Dunn had been in the employ of the
company for ten years, and was a reliable man, a sailor who had always
done his duty without murmur. He had a fine record.

The light drew abeam, and the ship ran close to the low, rocky point
where it juts out into the sea. The high mountains a few miles back
showed dimly in the gloom, making a huge shadow in the background. As
the light is upon the north side of the low promontory and shows across
to the southward, the land was very near as the ship steamed past it
and laid her head for the passage.

Junard gazed hard at the shore. He was thinking. Would any one try
to get into communication with Cuba here at the cape? There was a
question. If a small boat lay near, with lights out, she might get
close to the ship without being observed, for it was quite dark, and
the loom of the land made it darker than usual. It was nearly six
hours' run to the next light, in the Bahamas, across the channel, and
the Inagua Bank was too far to the eastward to invite shelter for a
small boat. It would be either at the cape, or near Castle Rock, or
Fortune Island, he believed, that an attempt might be made to get into
communication with the ship. This he must stop. No one must get in
communication with the land before daylight. Then he would search every
passenger thoroughly, go through all rooms, and take a chance at the
result. At Castle Rock he would be on watch, if nothing occurred here.

He gazed steadily into the blackness ahead. The stiff trade wind blew
the tops of the seas white. They broke in whitecaps, which showed now
and then through the gloom of the night. He strained his eyes, but
nothing showed ahead. The glass showed a dull, dark sea; there was
nothing in the line of vision within three miles--that is, nothing as
large as a whaleboat. He was sure of this. There might be something
under the dark loom of the land, but the glass failed to show anything.

"You take a four-point bearing upon the light, Mr. Dunn, and get the
distance accurate," said Junard. "The mate took his bearing before
he left the deck, but you can take another--we are about abreast
now--she's doing exactly sixteen."

Knowing that this would take the second officer until the light bore
four points abaft the beam, Junard left the bridge and went aft without
notice. He slipped down to the main deck, and went along the gangway
until he reached the taffrail. The whirl of the wheel shook the ship
mightily here, the long, steel arm of the tiller under the gratings
shook and vibrated with the pulsations. The chains drawn taut clanked
and rattled in the guides and sounded above the low murmur of the
shaking fabric. Junard gazed over the stern and watched the thrust of
the screw as it tore the sea white and whirled a giant stream astern
that showed sickly white with the phosphorescent glow.

When he turned again, he was aware of some one watching him. A head had
appeared and vanished from behind the end of the cabin structure. The
captain sprang for it with a bound. He turned the corner in time to see
a skirt disappearing into the alleyway leading into the saloon. He was
upon it with a catlike rush. He reached the saloon door just as it
closed in his face.

Without hesitating an instant, he plunged against it, and it gave way
to his great weight and power. He burst with a crash into the saloon.

The under steward who was on watch aft saw an apparition of a man in
uniform coming through the door like a bull. He had opened his eyes in
time to recognize the captain, who ran right across the cabin and out
upon the deck beyond.

Junard was swift. He made a reach for the figure as it flitted into a
room which opened upon the deck nearly amidships. His iron grip closed
upon the skirt, which stretched out in the wind behind the fleeing
figure. Then something struck him full in the face, took his breath,
and blinded him. He clung to the cloth, choking, coughing, and blinded;
made a grab with his free hand to clutch the person--but his grip
closed upon empty air.

When he got the ammonia out of his eyes, which were almost blinded
by the scorching fluid, he hurried to his room and bathed his head
copiously in cold water until he regained his sight.

"Well, it's a woman, all right," he commented. "We'll have her all
right in the morning; she won't get a show to-night to get away with
anything. I guess I've got her measure."

In a few minutes he sent for the purser.

That individual came to the captain's room with fear and trembling.
He had been playing draw poker, and breaking the rules of the ship,
regardless of discipline, and expected, of course, to get a rating.

"Give me the passenger list," said Junard.

It was produced. They ran over it, looking for the location of all the
women under thirty or thereabouts in the ship. Junard said nothing of
his adventure, and the purser was amazed at his appearance.

"Had a bad night, captain?" he asked.

"Yes, rather. There's a case of cholera aboard--among the women--I
don't know which one, but we'll have a chance to find out to-morrow.
Don't speak of it to any one, mind you; don't let it out under any
conditions--you understand?"

"Sure not," said the purser, paling a little under the news. "How did
you come to find it out, sir?"

"Never mind that now. Just keep an eye on all the women in this ship,
and don't let any of them get to throwing things overboard, or trying
to do anything foolish. Watch them, and tell me of anything that might
happen."

The purser, amazed, went back to his game of poker with certain
passengers; but before doing so, he instructed several of his force to
watch both gangways for the rest of the night. He did not know what
the "old man" expected, but supposed that cholera patients attempted
to throw things overboard, or tried suicide. The thought of the dread
disease aboard made him forgetful of the game, and he lost heavily
before morning.

Junard, still smarting from the ammonia thrown in his face, came again
upon the bridge. He had saved his eyes by a fraction, for the fluid had
struck him right in the nose and mouth, and only the spray of it had
gotten into his face higher up. It had been squirted by a fluid "gun"
of the kind commonly used by bicyclists for repelling angry dogs. Part
of the skirt had remained in his grip, but the person had slipped away
in an instant and disappeared. It angered him to think a woman could do
such a thing. And yet, if it were a woman watching him, there was sure
to be more than a woman connected with it. No woman, he reasoned, could
have tried his safe. No woman would have taken his revolver and carried
it, along with a deadly knife. There must have been a well-organized
party to the affair, and they had watched him, after taking the papers,
to see just what he would do. Of course, he knew they would not toss
such a valuable document overboard in the night time without a boat
being close at hand to pick it up. The ocean is a hard place to find
anything at night. He knew now that they were aware of his watchfulness
and would not attempt to get rid of the papers except under the most
favorable conditions. To throw them overboard attached to anything
small enough not to attract attention would be to invite sure loss. He
reasoned this out as he stood out the rest of Mr. Dunn's watch, and at
eight bells--four o'clock in the morning--the mate came again on the
bridge without anything happening to excite him.

"I've been on deck for a short time, Mr. Jameson," said Junard; "but
I'm going to turn in for a little while. Call me when we get well up to
Castle Rock--we'll raise it before morning, before daylight with the
weather clear like this."

"Aye, aye, sir; I will, sir--she's doing fine now," said Jameson, as he
signed the order book for his course during his watch.

At two bells--five o'clock--the mate called the captain by going to his
port door and knocking. He was amazed at the sight of a young woman
who came forth from the room and whisked herself quickly down the
deck and out of sight. Such a thing as a woman in the master's room
at that hour was enough to excite Mr. Jameson. He had not been on the
ship long, and the captain was new to him. Masters naturally had love
affairs as well as sailors, but they were generally careful about being
caught. Here Junard had asked him to call him when they sighted Castle
Rock, and, as he knew they must do this by five, at least, the mate
was puzzled to see a woman leaving the captain's room when he knocked.
Why hadn't she left sooner? It was a joke he would be bound to retail
to the rest sooner or later, and he smiled at the thought. He tried to
get a glimpse of her face, but failed. Then he waited a decent length
of time, and knocked again, louder, announcing the light ahead on the
starboard bow.

Junard came on deck instantly. He had been dressed and dozing.

The gray light of the morning, which was now beginning to show things
a little, enabled Junard to note the smile upon the face of his chief
mate.

"Anything funny doing?" he asked.

"No, sir; but I seen her--I couldn't help it."

"Seen who?"

"I beg your pardon, sir; but she was just going out when I came to call
you when I raised the light--your orders, sir, you know. I wouldn't----"

"Out with it! Whom did you see?" snapped the captain sharply, and his
tone told plainly that he was in no mood for a joke. The mate sobered
at once.

"There was a lady leaving your room as I came to knock--that's all,
sir," he said sullenly. The captain had a poor appreciation of humor,
he thought.

"What kind of looking woman was she?"

"Medium-sized, very well built--I might say stocky, sir--dressed in a
dark cloth dress; she didn't have on a hat." This last was with almost
a sneer. It brought Junard around with a jerk.

"I don't wish to seem foolish, Mr. Jameson, but you appear to presume
too much. I might insinuate gently that you are a damn fool--but I
won't, not until you tell me what is amusing you, and what you saw.
I will say there was no woman in my room. If there was, I'd not be
troubled to confess it."

"That's all I seen, sir," said Jameson sourly.

"Which way did she go?"

"She went aft," said the mate, wondering at the captain trying to hide
the obvious. It irked him to think his master a fool. "She went aft,
and that's all I seen."

"Mr. Jameson, there's a few things you don't know," said Junard. "When
we get abreast of Castle Rock, I want you to go aft and watch both
sides of the ship carefully, you understand? I want you to see that
not a thing is thrown overboard--not a single thing--and if there is
anything showing in the wake, come to me at once--or, better still,
ring off the engines and mark it to pick up. This is very important.
I can't tell you right now just how important it is, but I will say
your berth depends upon it. Do not let anything leave the ship without
notice--not a thing."

"Aye, aye, sir," said Jameson; and he went aft amazed at the outcome of
his deductions. He wondered what was up. Some affair of the captain's,
he was sure. But the severity of the master's tone, the earnestness
of the captain's manner, disturbed him greatly. There was something
peculiar about it that made him, forced him, to give his attention to
it. And there was the threat of his own berth, his position, being in
forfeit. He did not like that kind of talk from a captain. It savored
of undue severity. He took his station aft of the superstructure with
some misgivings. In the gray light of dawn, he watched both gangways,
first one side and then the other, keeping well back of the house.

Castle Rock light drew well upon the bow. It was now within a mile, and
Junard noticed a small fishing boat riding in the fairway just ahead
of the ship. As the water was very deep here, he knew she was not
anchored, but must be waiting and under way; yet no sail showed upon
her. Perhaps a powerful motor lay within her. He watched her carefully,
and walked from side to side of the bridge, waiting for some sign from
those aboard. The wake was now showing white in the gray of morning,
and a small object could soon be distinguished in the smooth sea to
leeward of the lighthouse, where the heavy swell of the Atlantic was
cut off.

Jameson, who stood at the taffrail, saw a figure of a man peer from
the window of a stateroom nearly amidships. The head was quickly
withdrawn. The mate watched, and then walked quickly across the stern
and watched the wake, wondering what might be taking place. The form
of a woman flitted down the gangway from forward, showing dimly in the
gloom. She came from the opposite side of the ship from where he had
seen the head peer forth. Hiding behind the house, he watched her come
quickly aft. She was carrying something in her hand that looked like a
life buoy. Instinctively the mate made ready to catch her. He saw that
life belt, and to his imagination it spelled something like a person
going overboard. The form of a man came quickly behind her, and Jameson
recognized one of the under stewards, who had been watching for trouble
at the purser's orders.

The woman ran at the sound of footsteps behind her. She came with
amazing swiftness to the taffrail, near where Jameson stood. He
gathered himself, and sprang forth, clasping her in his arms just as
she hurled the life belt over the side into the sea.

The girl screamed shrilly, struggled frantically in the embrace of the
officer. Jameson wondered what he was about--began to think he had
captured a lunatic--when the rush of feet above caused him to loosen
his grip. He turned in time to see Captain Junard take a header from
the rail of the deck above and plunge headlong into the sea where it
boiled and swirled from the thrust of the screw.

Jameson was paralyzed for an instant. He distinctly saw his commander
go overboard. It gave him a shock. He let go the girl and stood
motionless for a second. Then, as the head of Junard arose in the white
waste astern and struck out for an object, the life belt the girl had
thrown over, he gathered his wits again, and dashed for the quarter
bell pull, or telegraph, to the engine room.

Full speed astern he threw it, and the astonished engineer on watch
nearly fainted under the sudden warning. Thinking that a collision
was at hand, he shut down and reversed under full power, opening the
throttle wide, and giving her every ounce of steam in her boilers as
she took the strain. The sudden take-up, the tremendous vibrations, and
the slowing speed awoke many passengers. Not a sound of action had gone
forth save the screams of the girl, and these were now silent as she
had quickly flitted out of sight when the mate released her. Jameson
rushed to the bridge and called his watch as he ran. Then he set the
siren cord down hard, and the unearthly roar awoke the quiet tropical
morning. Men rushed about. The watch hurried aft.

"Stop her!" yelled Jameson to the quartermaster. "Stop her--don't go
astern!"

"Stop her, sir!" came the answering cry from the wheel. Jameson rushed
to the rail again, and cut loose a life buoy from its lashings. He ran
aft with it, intending to throw it out to his captain. Junard, however,
was but a speck, far astern, his head showing like a black dot in the
white water of the wake. The mate noticed for the first time that the
small fishing boat ahead was now standing down toward the ship under
rapid headway, the exhaust from her motor sounding loud and sharp over
the sea.

"Get the quarter boat down--quick!" came his order.

Then he hesitated a moment. The small fishing boat was nearing them
with rapidity. She headed straight for Junard, and would reach him long
before any rowboat from the ship could get there.

"Hold on! Avast the boat there!" he ordered. "That motor boat will pick
him up, all right." Then the thought that he was not quite right in
not lowering down a boat for his commander, that it might look queer,
waiting for a stranger to do his evident duty, came over him, and he
gave the order to lower away. The small boat dropped into the sea. The
steamer was now motionless, lying in the calm sea behind the rock, with
her engines stopped. Men crowded the rail aft to watch.

"What's the matter? What made him jump overboard?" came the question
from all sides. "It's the captain! What's up?"

Jameson could not quite tell. He was vaguely aware that his commander
sprang over for some object. That he took a desperate chance, with the
ship going ahead, was certain. Had he not been seen, the vessel would
have been miles away before missing him, for there had been no warning
from the bridge. The mate slid down the falls, wondering what he was
doing.

"Cast off--give way, port; back, starboard!" came his order. He stood
up, to see better, and gazed at the fishing boat, that now approached
the speck he knew to be the head of Captain Junard.

"Give way together!" he said, glad to get away from the ship, with the
inquisitive crowd gathering rapidly and increasing in both anxiety and
numbers.

He watched the motor boat come quickly to where Junard swam. The
captain was not a good swimmer. Few seamen can swim well. Jameson saw
the boat approach, men lean out from her side, and grab something,
apparently trying to lift the captain aboard. Then there was a
tremendous floundering and threshing about in the sea, distant shouts
for help from the captain, and the mate grasped the tiller yoke with a
certain grip.

"Give way, bullies! Give way--all that's in you now!" he urged.

Something was taking place that he did not quite understand, but he had
heard that call for help.

Junard saw the fishing boat coming toward him before it reached him.
He waited, swimming slowly and reserving his strength, feeling that
the occupants were hostile and were waiting for the papers that had
been tossed overboard. It was about where he expected something to
happen. The lighthouse and the shelter of the island made it a most
convenient spot to pull off the finish of the affair. The light-draft
fishing boat, with her motor, could easily evade capture from anything
the ship could send out after her. The steamer herself could not enter
the shoal water, and must allow the smaller boat to get away across
the shallow parts of the Great Panama Bank to some distant rendezvous,
where the papers could be put aboard a proper ship to take them to the
conspirators. He, the commander, had no right to leave the ship in the
manner he had done; but necessity called for drastic action, and he had
plunged over the side as soon as he had seen the girl fling an object
overboard.

Three men in the fishing boat were watching him as she drew up. His own
boat was a long distance off, but he hoped the mate would hurry.

A man came forward in the motor boat, and leaned out from her side.
He watched him narrowly. The man made a grab for Junard as the
boat reached him, and the captain, with a sudden jerk, dragged him
overboard. Then he yelled for help.

The man's two companions in the boat sprang to his aid. Junard found
himself engaged in a desperate struggle with three men, and shoved
himself away from the side of the craft.

He held fast to the package, a metal cylinder, tightly wrapped in
canvas, and at the same time struggled out of reach of the men above
him. The man he had pulled overboard regained his strength, and,
grasping the life belt with one hand, grabbed at the package with the
other. The package tied to the life belt could not be gotten out of
his reach, and Junard was struggling with one hand and fighting and
grasping alternately at the life belt with the other.

"Give it up, you scoundrel!" hissed the fellow. "What do you know about
this package? Give it to me--do you hear?"

"I hear well enough," snarled Junard, struggling farther out of the
reach of those in the motor boat. "But I'm the captain of that ship
there--and the papers are in my care. Let go, or I'll do you harm!"

The man glared at him savagely. Then he turned to the men above him in
the boat, now a dozen feet away.

"Shoot, Jim--shoot quick--kill the fool if he won't let go!" he said.

The man addressed was a tall, dark fellow with a sinister look. That
he was Colombian, Junard knew from his accent and appearance. The
other, who had stopped the engine, and who seemed to be the engineer,
looked askance. He evidently did not like the shooting part. This man
was also a Colombian, but his features were those of a man who works
outdoors at a simple trade. The other two looked like desperate men,
and Junard felt that they would stop at nothing to get the papers from
him. The man who was called Jim hesitated, and then, seeing the small
boat approaching from the steamer, reached behind his back and brought
forth a long, blue revolver. Junard waited until the barrel came within
a line with his eye; then he ducked, and swung the life belt around,
coming up with it in front of him, and raising it partly before his
face. The pistol cracked sharply, and the bullet tore through the cork.
Junard let go the package, and seized the man in the water with both
hands, whirling him about and holding him squarely in front of himself.

"Start that engine!" called the man, struggling vainly to get away.

The man who had stopped it whirled the wheel over again, and the rumble
of the motor began. The two waited, without throwing on the clutch.

Junard grasped the man firmly, and forced him down under the sea, going
under with him, and holding his breath to the limit of his great lungs.

When he came up again the man was choking, gasping for air. Junard
only waited long enough to fill his own lungs with a breath, and then
ducked again, the crack of the revolver ringing in his ears as he went,
pulling his antagonist down with him.

The next time he came up the fellow could not talk, but choked and
gasped for air. Junard held him with a giant's grip, his long, powerful
arms encircling him like those of a gorilla. The fellow let go the life
belt and the package. Junard took in more air, and dropped down again,
while a bullet tore through his hair, cutting his scalp.

This time when he came up the fellow was limp. Junard held him before
him, and the man with the pistol was afraid to fire, as the captain's
eyes just showed above the man's neck. The captain struggled farther
and farther away from the boat, getting fully twenty feet distant. The
man at the engine threw on the clutch, and the boat shot ahead, swung
sharply around, and headed for the floating men.

Junard saw the mate standing up in the stern of the ship's boat, and
knew he was doing all he could to reach him. The shots had made him
aware of the desperate situation, and the men were bending their backs
with a will to the oars. Jameson yelled harshly, the men in the motor
craft saw that to remain longer would mean capture. They swung off and
headed for the steamer, leaving their companion in Junard's grip. The
next moment the mate came tearing up, and, leaning over, grasped his
commander and hauled him aboard the boat.

Junard came over the side, and immediately reached for a boat hook. He
stabbed at the cork jacket, and hauled it alongside, dragging it aboard
before the boat lost her headway. The body of the exhausted man sank
before either he or Jameson could get another hold of him.

"To the ship--quick!" gasped the captain.

"What's the matter? What's up?" questioned the mate.

"Never mind--swing her, quick!"

The boat turned around and headed back, the captain urging the men to
their utmost. The fishing boat, with her motor going full speed, left
them far behind. They were unable to get near the craft.

Junard, watching them, saw the boat come close under the ship's stern.
A form of a woman leaped from the rail of the lower deck. The splash
threw spray almost into the boat as she went past, and they saw the
tall Colombian reach over and drag the girl aboard. The boat shot
around the steamer's stern and disappeared for a few moments; and when
Junard saw her again she was a quarter of a mile distant, and making
rapid headway for the shoal water of the island. He started after her,
when the shots from the revolver began to strike about the craft, and
Junard ordered his men to stop rowing. He knew he could not capture
her, unarmed as he was, and he had his precious papers safe in his
mighty hands. To follow was only to invite trouble.

The fishing boat ran quickly out of range, and Junard watched her for a
few minutes. Then he headed his boat back to the ship.

The rail was crowded as he came alongside, the purser watching him, and
half the passengers were on deck to see what was taking place.

"What was it? What's the matter?" asked a score at once.

"Man overboard--that's all," said Jameson.

"H'ist her up," said Junard, and he clambered up the swinging ladder
thrown over to him, taking the life belt and the package under his arm.

Mr. Dunn was on deck, and Junard gave him his orders.

"Full speed ahead--on her course, north to west," he said, and went
into his room. The door closed behind him. Then he switched off the
lights, for it was now broad daylight, and then he opened the package.
The papers were all there and intact, the water not reaching them at
all. The safe was opened, and they were placed within. Then Junard
stripped and turned in for a few hours of dreamless, quiet sleep.

He had saved the papers of his company, documents that were valued at
more than a million dollars--and not a soul aboard knew what had really
happened. Even Jameson was never quite sure.

The purser asked no questions about cholera, the ship headed along upon
her course toward New York, and the warm day took its routine without
further incident. Junard appeared very happy, and told many interesting
stories at the dinner table that day. He answered no questions
concerning the affair of the night.

He brought in his papers, delivered them in person, and a great
political change took place without any one but a few select souls ever
knowing how near the verge of revolution a prominent South American
republic had been. Junard was offered a medal for risking his life
trying to save that of a man overboard--but he refused it. The shots
from the fishing boat were explained as signals for help. That was all.



IN THE WAKE OF THE ENGINE


I had been transferred to the old _Prince Albert_, one of
the freighters on the Jamaica run, and the skipper was Bill
Boldwin--Boldwin who was once in the Amper Line, but who had a
monstrous thirst and a reckless disposition--too reckless for
first-class passengers. The "old man," as all captains are called,
having these failings, had also a mighty poor education, and his
navigation was mostly, "Let her go and trust to the sun."

"Compasses?" said Bill. "How'd they get along before they had 'em, hey?
Steer the course, or thereabouts; you'll git thar or somewheres nigh to
it--if you don't fetch up."

"But the company?" I said in amazement.

"The company be blowed! Take life easy--it's short. Don't let the
company worry you to any great extent. They'll give you a job as night
watchman at twenty per month after they get out of you all there is in
you."

At the same time Bill, who was my "old man," and who, by the way,
was ten years younger than myself, would not stand for any too much
carelessness on the part of his first officer. I was his chief mate.
He knew what I had to do, and hated to tell me. I confess I seldom gave
him a chance. The second greaser was a little, short squarehead named
Andersen; at least we called him that, going on the principle that
it was a sure thing that if he was a squarehead he was either named
Andersen or Johnson. There are no other names in Sweden, and a man
naturally just has to be one or the other. They're good enough.

Andersen knew his business and was an able seaman, learning his little
book in the old sailing ships where they teach you something not always
taught in steam. He had the bos'n in with him, and what the bos'n
didn't know about handling the steam winches would be hard to tell. But
that's all the bos'n knew. Not a thing else. If he had he wouldn't have
rammed greasy rags in behind the ceiling of the after deck house in a
hurry to get his grub at knock-off time.

No, that was the failing of the bos'n; he lacked knowledge, and was as
good a navigator as you might find in a young lady's finishing school.
He had paws on him like a loggerhead's flippers, nearly a foot across,
and each finger was a marline spike, and every thread of his hair,
where he wasn't clean bald, was a rope yarn. He knew sailoring--nothing
else.

He was about as much afraid of anything in this world or the next as
a hungry shark is of beef; in fact, he seemed to take to trouble with
about the same sort of appetite. In six months I never had a chance to
tell him anything except the routine.

The chief engineer was McDougal, and the second was Mac something--all
of our engine-room force went under the same name of Mac, just plain
"_Mac_," and if they were not Scotchmen, I never saw one in my life.
Scotchmen are born engine men, take to a machine like a dago does to
a knife. The rest of the fireroom bunch were the old-style Liverpool
Irishmen, and I'll tell you something, they were hard ones all right.
They were the toughest lot of coal tossers I ever sailed with, and even
the donkey man, O'Hare, was a peach of a Donegal Irishman with Galways
of reddish hue that stuck out from under his shirt collar, pointing
upward as if they were growing some husky on his throat.

That was the principal part of our crew. There were some twenty others,
including the cooks, galley boys, seamen, and quartermasters.

We cleared for Antonio, and were soon running out over the Western
Ocean in the lazy, tiresome routine of ship's duty. We were licensed to
carry passengers and had a few waiters aboard, a steward, and a lady of
about thirty signed on as stewardess.

As there were no passengers this voyage out--no one ever went out
with us if he could help it, but came back when there were no other
ships--the cabin crowd had an easy time, regular yachting trip; and if
Miss Lucy Docking had a stupid time, it was because she wouldn't talk
to the rest.

"Stuck-up and sassy," they said aft, but I never could tell, never
getting a chance to talk with her without a dozen or more listening.
At the same time I didn't like to blame the girl just because she
didn't like the set of lovers the ship furnished free of charge. "Let
her pick her own," said I, "it's like enough she'll make a mistake,
anyways, without your help." I never had a big opinion of women,
anyhow, for the only one I ever proposed marriage to fell down and
nearly died laughing at me, and that after I had been dreaming of her
and thinking her the greatest angel in the world.

Miss Lucy was all right with me, because I let her alone, except in
the mid-watch, when I was cold and thirsty. Then she used to get me a
cup of cocoa or chocolate or coffee, and I tell you the man who stands
the mid-watch on the old freighters is earning all he gets, whether it
comes by way of the stewardess or by way of the front office.

We crossed the Western Ocean in the usual manner. I had my order book
to sign, and I saw that the second greaser didn't get gay with it. Days
and days of the old routine passed, and we were in the edge of the
trade when the first thing happened to show what a wild lot of yaps we
had in that ship.

The bos'n stuffed his oiled rags in behind the ceiling of the after
house, and it was about three days afterward we struck the hot weather.
The rags promptly caught fire--they always do when snugged in from the
air--and we hove the old hooker to in the teeth of the trade with the
after deck a roaring furnace. If you think we didn't have a time of
it putting that deck house out, throwing it overboard in pieces, you
should look up Lloyd's. Well, the way I talked to that bos'n would have
given heart disease to most men, but the beggar didn't see it at all.

"Rags is rags," he says, "and what for don't I put them behaind
something?"

"Because if you do it again we'll toss you overboard with twenty pound
of kentledge to your feet," I told him, and it was the only reason he
could get through his bullet head. It didn't scare him at all. He only
looked upon the matter as closed, for he would not mutiny. He was too
good a sailor for any foolishness.

"Rags is rags," he would repeat as we chopped the blackened wreck away
the day after, when all hands had been near the port of missing ships
and were tired and nervous, having been on duty for fifty hours without
a break. "Rags is rags, an' some son of a sea-cook set fire to 'em--no
rags I ever seen ever took fire of themselves. Does a ship run herself,
hey? Answer me that! Does a ship run her own engines, steer her own
course, what? Some one of you sons of Ham did that dirty trick and I'll
get you for it yet!"

"But rags do fire themselves, even if a ship don't," said the old man,
"and you are the leading bonehead not to know it. You don't rate a
brass boy in anything but a coal barge, and if you don't look out I'll
have to train you some."

"Rags is----"

Only the size and look of the bos'n's hands prevented the old man from
committing murder right there. But the bos'n took it out on the men.
What he didn't do to them that voyage was never logged.

Miss Docking stood the test well. She stayed on deck and watched the
fracas and never turned a hair, so to speak, waiting for the word to
take to the boats with as cool a nerve as anything I ever saw. She
was billeted for my boat, Number One, and I confess I was somewhat
disappointed when the blamed deck house burned to the steel and the
danger of leaving the ship was past.

Boldwin was always taking it easy, and he never even took that real
hard, although it would cost him something to explain how he did the
damage when the underwriters asked him.

"Don't do it again," was all he said to me.

"No, not until we get another deck house at least," I said. "Maybe I
can see that they don't set fire to the anchor or burn up the windlass,
or eat the coir hawser, or----"

"Well, see that you don't. That's your business--you're mate," he
snapped back, and started for the chart house.

Andersen came to me. "I tank I sign de order book for sou'west half
sou'--here we bane running eastb'no'th. How I tell de truth wid sech a
t'ing--hey?" said he.

"If you always tell the truth in this line of packets you'll soon get a
job hoeing potatoes in Essex! What's the matter with you? Do you want
the company to get wise that we fought a fire set in with oiled rags by
a fool of a bos'n and had to run the ship fifty miles off her course?
Who'll pay for the coal? Who'll square the old man? Who'll tell the
passengers that we don't always have a bonehead bos'n to wreck us, and
that if they'll promise to come again we'll see that it don't happen
often--no, not often?"

Andersen went on duty with a queer look in his eyes. He had seen
something and it amazed him--just why I never could tell, for he had
been in steamers before and ought to have known something of a ship's
officers' duties before coming into the Prince Line.

The truth in many lines is sacred. Absolutely sacred. Too sacred
entirely to shift about the deck like a bag of dunnage and leave lying
around for some fools to play with. No, never play with the truth in
some lines of shipping. Do your duty. That's all you've got to do, and
if it's so logged, why, then you're all right. If it isn't, why, then
you better get to driving a truck or peddling peanuts.

Well, Boldwin was a pretty good sort, as I have said. He mostly saw
that all of us did our duty--in the log book, in the order book, and
with the company officers. We went along slowly on our course after
that, and were in the latitude of Watlings when bad weather came on.
It was nothing much, just a cyclone of the usual order, coming as it
did in the hurricane season; but we were a full-powered ship of six
thousand tons, and it wouldn't have delayed us to any extent--except
that we didn't count on the donkey man from Donegal.

You see, the _Albert_ had one of those underwater ash-chutes. The pipe
came down through the bilge, about fifteen feet below the water line.
It was a foot in diameter, and was supposedly bolted to the skin and as
solid as the keel or garboards.

The metal of the pipe was half an inch in thickness, and was braced and
bolted so that the top which showed above the water line could be hove
on and shut off in a seaway. The top had a sliding cover working with
a lever, and when the ashes were to be fired out the cover was thrown
back, the bucket dumped, and a jet of steam blew the mass out through
the ship's bottom, making no dirt or dust at all, and doing away with
the everlasting firing over the side.

It was a good invention. It saved the company many dollars in paint,
and it kept the ship, which was always short-handed, looking better
than most vessels that used the old way over the side.

It would have lasted forever if the man from Donegal hadn't been of an
inquisitive turn of mind, and started exploring it with a monkey wrench
the week before the storm. As it happened he broke several of the
bolts which had rusted in the bottom, and the metal, having been much
worn and corroded, the first thing Mac knew was a torrent of sea water
pouring into the after compartment, coming as it did through a pipe
hole about a foot in diameter and fifteen feet below the sea level.

It caught the firemen unawares. The donkey man was with them and
let out a yip that brought every coal passer, oiler, and fireman
to the chute. A wild burst of water tore through that hole, and the
compartment was flooded in less time than it takes to tell about
it--and that compartment ran the whole length of the engine room and
aft of it until it brought up in the wake of the machinery, where the
bulkhead of the tail-shaft room shut off the stern.

The donkey man managed to get out with the rest, and the fires in
starboard boilers swamped, nearly blowing up the ship as the water
flooded them. It was only because there was enough water to prevent the
making of steam to any great extent that saved us from having the whole
midsection blown in the air.

And all the time I was holding to the bridge rail with a cyclone
snoring down upon us at the rate of seventy miles an hour. Luckily the
ash pipe stayed partly bolted to the skin of the bottom. That alone
saved us from total loss.

Of course I knew something was wrong the minute the boilers went
smothered. The terrific roar of steam and the easing of the engines
told me that sure enough trouble was coming, and all the time I had
been wondering how we would hold the hooker up to that gale with the
full power in her.

"What's the matter--bottom blow away?" howled Boldwin, coming from the
pilot house and yelling in my ear.

"God knows--anything might happen to us after last week," I howled in
return, but the force of the hurricane blew the words away, and the
old man went staggering and pulling himself along the rail until he
managed to get below. For the next fifteen minutes on that bridge I did
some small bit of thinking. Looked like all day with us. Not a sign
could I get from anywhere, and of course I dared not leave the bridge.
Once I thought she had blown up with powder. Next I thought the engines
had gone through the bottom. And all the time I could feel her settling
in that whirlwind sea--a sea torn white with the blast of the squalls
that were now coming faster and faster each minute.

"Well, I'm mighty glad I'm not married, anyway," I said to myself, for
it looked like the long sleep coming fast. And then I somehow thought
of that Miss Docking below there in the comfortable cabin waiting for
the finish. It gave me a bit of a turn, and I tried to imagine what
that cabin would look like in a few minutes when the sea water swept
through it with all its transoms and cushions, piano and carpet----

"Hard a starboard, sir," came the cry.

It was most welcome. Anything but that standing there waiting for the
next minute to follow the last. I saw that the quartermaster swung the
wheel over quickly. It was steam steering, and the ship fell off in the
trough of the sea in a few minutes, the weight of the gale driving her
bodily to leeward and heeling her over to quite a list.

"Heave her to," came the order passed up from the old man, and I put
the wheel hard down and waited to see if she would stay without coming
up. She lay easily drifting off, and while I watched her for trouble
the old man sent for me. Andersen came up and took my place, and I ran
down, half blown, half crawling to the shelter of the deck house, and
from there below to see what had happened.

Bill Boldwin was standing at the ash chute swearing at the man from
Donegal. The donkey man was trying to tell what he didn't know about
his business, and all the time the water flowed freely through the
one-foot pipe until it so filled the compartment that nothing more
could come up through it. It was a good thing! If the whole Atlantic
Ocean had been delegated to flow through that pipe, nobody was there
to stop it, not a soul to say why not. And then I was aware of the
stewardess standing in the press of faces, looking scared but cool.

"Why don't you ram something in it?" she asked.

Simple? Sure it was simple. No one had tried to do such a thing, but
there she was asking why.

"The pipe'll break away--you can't shove anything down it," said
Boldwin.

"No? But why don't you shove something from the outside?" said Miss
Docking.

"Go to your room," snarled the old man.

"She's right--we'll stop it in a jiffy--from the outside," I yelled.

The skipper thought I was crazy. He looked at me.

"How'll you get anything over the outside in this seaway, you
bonehead?" he asked.

"Get me the hand lead," I yelled to the bos'n, "and a stick of light
wood--big piece, big enough to float a man."

The bos'n ran for the stuff. That was one good point in that bos'n.
He'd do what he was told even when he hadn't the slightest idea what
he was doing. He came back in a few minutes with a long piece of white
pine and the hand lead. I looked them over for a moment to judge the
weight and floating power of the tools. Then I quickly hitched the lead
to the piece of pine and left the bight of the line so that as soon as
I jerked it hard the lead would free itself and go hell bent for Davy
Jones, leaving the Pine line fast to the lead line to float up and away.

To the end of the chute I now quickly made my way. The Donegal man
wanted to help, and faith! he was a good man when it came to doing
things he understood. He showed me where the upper end of that chute
was in that roaring surge of filthy water, and the beggar actually got
a hold of the lever that worked the cover and jammed it open.

I instantly dropped the lead, the wood, and the line through, and had
the satisfaction of feeling the line going fast to the bottom out
through the hole in the bilge. When the line had gone about ten fathoms
I gave the sudden jerk. Off comes the lead and the line stops running
out.

"Get to windward and grab that plank," I yelled, and even the old man
followed the bunch that struggled to the rail and watched the sea
where we drifted bodily off. In a minute the bos'n saw it. In five more
he had the plank back aboard and a three-inch line fast to the lead
line. This I hauled quickly but cautiously back through the ash pipe
until I got a good hold of the end.

"Now," I yelled, "give me mattresses, beds, canvas, fearnaught, or
oakum--anything so long as you get it here quick."

The stewardess had already anticipated my work. I caught her eye back
of the line of men.

"Here they are," she said quietly.

The bos'n got a Number Double O hatch cover. I wrapped the mattresses
in it, and then quickly hitched the three-inch line carefully about the
middle.

"Over the side with it," I shouted. Over it went, and as it did so I
got the line hauling through the pipe. Two men helped me. We hauled the
plug jam up tight against the ship's bilge, and then surged upon the
line and made it fast.

"Now go ahead and pump her clear, Mac, pump her out--she's tight as a
drum," I said, and the old man looked at me with a peculiar smile.

An hour later that compartment was clear of water, and she leaked only
a little around the stuffing, which was not enough to wet a man's feet.
Another day and the starboard boilers were doing duty with a smoothing
sea and a sun peeping out through the banks of trade clouds. The storm
had long passed; the _Prince Albert_ was on her way under full power,
with nothing at all to disturb the serenity of the passage, save
the knowledge that we had a masterly crew aboard and some excellent
specimens for manning passenger ships.

Down the Western Ocean we ran without further incident, and hove to off
the entrance of Antonio, burning flares for the pilot. You know the
place. Narrow cut in through the reef, with the harbor lying like a
pool of blue water in the surrounding hills. Not a breath of air in the
place even when, half a mile distant, just outside, the trade might be
blowing a twenty-knot breeze.

The pilot came out at daybreak, and we ran in, tied up to the wharf,
and began discharging. My duties were ended for the time, as I thought,
and I took a stroll up to the hotel upon the hill. There was no use
trying to get any sleep in the watch below while at the dock, for two
hundred howling Jamaica blacks roared and surged along the gangways and
crowded the winches, handling the cargo ably, while the women came down
in swarms to chat with the crew and sell a few grapefruit and oranges.
Boldwin let any one come aboard, and as the men were not supposed to
handle cargo, they had plenty of time in spite of all we could do to
keep them busy.

The skipper reported the damage to the agents, and told of the disaster
below. He was honest. He might have saved that bit of knowledge until
we reached England again, but he told his tale, and the agents refused
to allow him to sail until the pipe was repaired and properly bolted
down into the bilge plates as it should be. In the smooth water of
that mirror-like harbor it seemed an easy thing to do. All that was
necessary was to get a diver to go under the fifteen feet to the
outside end and pass up the bolts through the flange.

Mr. Man from Donegal could then get at them with his monkey wrench and
screw down the nuts upon them, clamping the pipe as fast as the keel
itself.

"You take a look around uptown and try to get hold of a diver," said
the old man. "Mr. Sacks, the agent, says he don't know of any nearer
than Kingston, and it'll take two days to get the one over there, as
he's out on a wreck off the harbor. We can't wait two days. Got to get
to Montego Bay and take on a lot of stuff, then get to Kingston for
clearing and off we go."

"Why not wait until we get to Kingston to do the trick?" I asked.

Bill Boldwin gazed at me in contempt.

"Say, do you want to advertise the fact that we are on the bum to all
the passengers the line'll carry? Think a minute, man, and don't ask
fool questions. We got to get that job done right here--see? We don't
go outside until there's something more'n a mattress and a bit of
fearnaught between us and the bottom of the Caribbean."

"But we carried it the last thousand miles all right," I said.

Bill turned away in disgust.

As a matter of fact, I didn't like the idea of trying to get hold of
a diver in Antonio. There were not enough divers to go down to find
the bottoms of the rum bottles ashore, let alone a ship's bilge. It's
true, a man might do the thing naked in that clear water. I've seen
men in the East copper a ship twice as deep with nothing on them but a
hammer and a mouthful of nails.

After a day's search I gave it up. Not a man knew anything about
submarine work, and at the hotel they laughed at me when I inquired for
a diver. I also noticed that Miss Lucy Docking looked well sitting upon
the veranda of the joint, togged out as she was in white linen. She
gave me a nod, but wasn't keen on talking when I tried to find out if
she had made arrangements for lady passengers that voyage.

"There's two on the books--that's all," she said, and gazed placidly
out over the tops of the cocoa-nuts growing upon the beach below.

"Your advice last Friday helped me a lot," I said, "and I appreciate it
and would----"

"Would you like some more?" she interrupted suddenly.

"Anything you might suggest," I said.

"Beat it back to the ship, then," she answered without a smile.

"Sure--if that's your advice," I snarled; "the hot weather has
evidently soured your----"

"Cut it out--I'm not a guest here, and what do you think the agents
would say if they saw the chief officer of their 'crack' liner talking
to their stewardess sitting on the hotel piazza? I thought you had more
sense."

"I ain't the only fool aboard--that's straight," I said.

"No; nor ashore, either--why don't you stop that hole yourself? You're
big enough and ugly enough to stop a clock," she snapped.

"Thanks!" I answered, and strode away with the kindest feelings
imaginable for our stewardess.

But strange as it may seem, that remark was what did the business. I
would stop that hole if I had to be keelhauled myself to do it. What!
Lay the ship up a day or two while that lady sat around in white duck
and looked out dreamily over that beautiful harbor? Not if I knew
myself. I'd see that the ship got away and hoped she would carry at
least two ugly and indignant aged ladies who could and would make life
a happy dream for that stewardess.

I went back aboard with the report that there was not a diver this side
of hell, and that if the ship would stand the expense of my funeral I
would at least try to pass the bolts for the man from Donegal to screw
fast.

"Sink a donkey man, anyhow!" I swore, "why don't the company get
engineers enough to run a ship properly?"

"Why, indeed?" smiled Bill Boldwin.

I turned to the men I needed, and with that bos'n to give them advice
with those flippers of his, I peeled off and made ready for the work.
The engine-room force had taken off the pipe and bolted a new flange to
it, a strong job and proper. The affair was all ready to ship just as
soon as we dared pull the wad of stuffing away and set it up. A frame
had been rigged in the room to steady the affair, and the bolt holes
had been reamed out as much as they would stand. A deck pump kept the
water from the vicinity, the water that still leaked in around the bolt
holes.

It was necessary to get the wad of stuff away from the bolt holes in
the flanges, for it spread out so that it made passing of bolts from
the outside impossible. The pressure upon it from the water under the
ship at the depth of fifteen feet was great, and I was supposed to get
a line to it so that it might be pulled away by the men on deck after
we slacked away the three-inch line by which we had hauled it into the
breach. The pipe was set up true over the opening, the holes lined up,
a few bolts inserted point downward to steady it, and all was ready for
the man outside to get the blamed wad away and pass the bolts upward so
that their threads would appear through the flange. I went on deck and
gazed down over the side at the warm blue depths.

"Strange that the mate has to do the dog's work," I said to Mac, who
was waiting and watching.

I had a line rigged under the bilge by passing it under the bows and
drifting it aft until it came right on the line of the hole. It was
slack enough to allow a handhold, so that I could pull myself down
quickly and then let go as I pushed in a bolt.

I took a light line and over I went.

The water was fine. The light filtered down under the ship's bilge,
and it was only dark after I swept well under the curve of the side.
Still, I could see a little, and soon made out a mass which I rightly
took to be the mattress and stuff filling the hole.

I tried to get the line fast to the thing, feeling quickly, but I
lost my breath before I got it fast and, letting go, struggled to the
surface again.

"What luck?" asked Mac, grinning over at me.

I wasted no time in idle words. I recovered and grasped the line again
and hauled myself furiously toward the opening underneath. I could not
get the line fast, and had to come up and confess that I had failed so
far.

"Look out a shark don't get you," said some one with an idea of wit.

"Give me a marline spike," I ordered that bos'n, and the beggar got
one, handing it to me by a line. I dove again, and this time managed to
drive the spike in between the turns of the line holding the mattress.
The next dive I got the small line fast to it, and, coming up, told
them to slack away on the big line inside and haul the small one
outside and get the stuffing away. It came easy enough, and the line of
interested faces peering over the rail above bore a different look as I
hung with one hand and rested from the exertion.

"Now for the bolts," I said, and one was handed down. I hauled under
again and inserted it, feeling with some satisfaction the other end
being grasped by some one inboard. Mr. Donkey Man had hold of it all
right, and, putting on a nut, set it up without delay. This much of
the job was not so hard, but I was now getting tired, and found that
I could hardly get below before I wanted to get my breath again. I was
no diver--no, not to speak of, but I thought of that woman sitting up
there waiting, taking it easy with her insolence and white dress----

Seven other inch bolts were to be inserted before the job could be
finished inside, and the water was pouring through the bolt holes in
streams that kept the pumps working full stroke and made working about
the opening difficult. I came on deck, and Bill Boldwin gave me a
noggin of rum, grinning at me all the time.

"You ain't so bad for a mate--I've sailed with worse," said he.

"The next time I sign on it'll be as a master submarine," I said, with
some feeling. "Now, if I didn't have to wear these breeches I could do
better and faster work."

"Why don't you take 'em off?" he said.

"But the ladies--I must wear something----"

"Oh, what do you care for a lot of niggers? Strip if it does you any
good."

I was just about to take his advice when I noticed the face of Miss
Docking passing the port along the gangway. She had been attracted by
the crowd aboard, and had come, woman-like, out of pure curiosity, to
see what was on.

"No," I said; "I'll fix the rest, all right--gimme another noggin."

I got seven of the eight bolts in place; and the donkey man, assisted
by Mac and the entire engine-room force, set them up one at a time
after packing the joint properly. Only one wooden plug remained
inboard, and the water squirted straight up nearly fifteen feet with
the pressure when that was pulled out for my last attempt. If I could
get that bolt in, there was a job done that would save the company
perhaps a few hundred dollars, and I would get--well, I might get
mentioned as something better than the ordinary mate when Bill made
his report. But that wasn't what made me do the thing; it was the
confounded spirit that Lucy Docking stirred up within me. Oh, yes, I
was a fool, all right. I don't deny it.

The affair was getting to be something of a circus by this time, and
the coons who were looking on were making remarks. I was about to clear
the gangway when I thought that here was the last plug, the last bolt,
and then for a nip and a sleep before clearing. I went over with that
last bolt, and, as I did so, I saw Miss Lucy gazing out of a cabin
port at me. Before I went under her face appeared above the rail and
watched. I was so tired by this time that I had the small line, which
was hambroline, fast about my armpits, so that Mac and his crew could
haul me up if I gave out entirely. This was my mistake.

Down I went, and as I went under I thought I heard the word "Shark!"
muttered by some of the colored folk above. I had just shoved in the
last bolt when a shadow passed. At the same instant there was a mighty
pull upon the line. I was jerked bodily away, and my back scraped the
huge barnacles which covered the ship all along in the wake of her
engines clear to her sternpost. The razor-like edges cut and stung
me. I felt a mighty desire to breathe, and tried to get upward. Then
my head struck the bottom of the ship with great violence, and I was
partly stunned. This was what probably saved my life, for I ceased to
breathe, and the spasm passed.

What really happened was this:

A huge sawfish was swimming about the harbor, having just come inside
the reef. Tropical seas are infested by many of these fish, which "fin
out" like a shark, and which are probably of the shark species. The
long snout, unlike the swordfish, which is a giant mackerel, is studded
with rows of sharp teeth, put there for the Lord knows what purpose.
This monster had come close to the ship, and the negroes had spotted
him, and thought him a shark at a distance where his snout could not be
seen.

Some one shouted, "Shark!" and the intelligent bos'n hauled line with
those finlike flippers of his after the manner of a sperm-whaler coming
upon a three hundred-barrel whale. My head had struck the ship's bilge,
and my back had been cut open with the razor-like barnacles--and then
the fish, getting frightened at the uproar, dove below, and his teeth
on his saw snout fouled the line.

It parted, but it parted between him and the ship, and away I went in
tow of a flying sawfish.

I knew nothing about it for some time, luckily; it would have affected
my nerves.

Luckily the negroes were active in spite of their laziness. A small
boat, lying alongside the ship, was instantly manned, and within a
minute it was after me, with four stout blacks pulling for all they
were worth. A man in the bow reached over and jabbed at the line with
his boat hook and jerked it aboard. Then he lifted me in and turned me
over to the rest in the boat, while he held on to the line and played
the fish gamely for all the sport there was in it.

I came to in that boat towing behind a sawfish, which the natives
seemed to think was more important to catch than me getting back aboard
and receiving proper treatment for being nearly cut in two and drowned.

The line finally broke, and they rowed me sorrowfully back alongside.
I looked up, and saw Miss Lucy Docking gazing over the side with
some show of anxiety expressed upon her face. Also I noted Bill
Boldwin, skipper of the _Prince Albert_, showing some interest in the
proceedings.

"Send him aboard, you black scoundrels!" screamed Miss Lucy. "How dare
you keep that man in the boat chasing a good-for-nothing fish?"

"Bring him alongside, or I'll be in there after you," roared Bill.

My bos'n passed a line down, and I was quickly hoisted aboard, where I
was laid out flat on my back, as I was still too weak to stand. Miss
Lucy herself poured whisky down my throat and smoothed my wet hair back
from my bleeding head.

"Arnica, you lazy rascals!" she hissed, and some one went for it.
My cuts were soaked in it, and it stung furiously, but the cuts of
barnacles are poisonous, and I rather preferred arnica to friar's
balsam, which I knew Bill would rub me with. Then the bos'n helped me
to my bunk, and Miss Lucy Docking was left alone with me to attend to
my wants.

"I suppose my advice and counsel was not so good this time?" she said
as Bill left us.

"Well, it taught me one thing, all right enough," I said, "and that may
do me some good in the future."

"And how is that?" asked the lady, looking at me with some show of
concern. She had wonderful eyes, and her hair was noticeably curly at
the temples--and her mouth----

"Well, it will teach me never, no, never, under any circumstances
whatever, do you understand?--never to take it again," I said, taking
her hand.

"We'll see about that later on," she said, and her mouth had a peculiar
droop at the corners that has been a constant source of dread to me
ever since--that is, whenever I see it.



IN THE HULL OF THE "HERALDINE"


"I understand that you did good work in the _Prince Alfred_ in time of
trouble," said Lord Hawkes, looking at me with approval. He was manager
of the Prince Line, and, when he sent for any of us to tell us that we
had done well, it was time to--well, he didn't often do that, and I
must have shown some embarrassment.

I remained silent, holding my cap in my hands and looking at Boldwin,
my skipper, who had done me the honor to report me favorably in the log
book.

"I hear, also," continued Lord Hawkes, "that you are a good diver, a
master workman under water----"

"Pardon me, your lordship," I interrupted, "I'm but a licensed ship's
officer, and what I don't know about diving would fill a dozen empty
log books."

"Well, at all events, you showed resource. Yes, my good Garnett, you
are a man of infinite resource. There's no doubt about that, and that's
what I'm coming to. You are also resolute in time of trouble, and the
two qualities are what I need in the work I am going to send you to
do."

Bill Boldwin looked scared. He didn't want to lose his mate. He had
simply spoken for me that I might get in the good books of the company,
not get away from his ship.

The manager of the Bay Line seemed to be studying some papers upon the
desk before him while we two stood respectfully in front as became
seamen in the presence of our mighty ruler. Boldwin was keen on lords.
I hadn't associated with them to any great extent myself, but I was
willing--no matter what might be said about them.

"The _Princess Heraldine_, our Cape liner, left port August the fifth,"
said Lord Hawkes. "She had aboard in her safe the famous Solander
diamond, a stone nearly as large as the Cullinan and worth something
like a round half-million dollars. Also she had about three million
more in various stones uncut and consigned to the firm here. In running
up the West African coast, she broke her crank shaft and drove it
through her bottom, tearing the compartment to pieces, and forcing
Captain Sumner to head for Lagos in the hope of beaching her before she
sank. He managed to get her into ten fathoms on that low, sandy coast,
and she went down about a mile or two offshore.

"All the passengers were saved, but by some oversight the combination
of the safe was lost at the time they needed it, owing to the agent,
Grimes, being either too frightened or too ill to remember it.

"Captain Sumner--the only other man aboard who knew the
combination--was unable to either leave the bridge at the critical
moment of her sinking, owing to the necessity of saving the passengers
in the small boats, or tell any one before the _Heraldine_ suddenly
settled and went down, carrying five of the crew and the entire
contents of the safe along with her."

Lord Hawkes looked up at me shrewdly as he finished and gazed into my
eyes.

I saw no necessity for a reply. There was a few minutes' silence, then
he went on:

"The wrecking company is now on the way there, but there has been some
trouble experienced with them and with the underwriters. Therefore
we've deemed it worth while to send a ship--one of our regular Cape
boats on her lay-up voyage--to Lagos, and try for the safe.

"The ship is a total loss, and will be covered all right, but the
diamonds are not insured, owing, as I have said, to some disagreement
with the underwriters lately, and it has been just our luck to lose
them this voyage.

"You are to take the _Prince John_, and go to Lagos. There you will
find the wrecking crew waiting orders. You are to see that we get that
safe intact--you understand? We want that safe _just as it was before
it went to the bottom_. Your orders are here." And he handed me a
folded document. "You will leave at once."

"Aye, aye, sir," I said, somewhat bewildered, but getting the lay of
the thing straight enough. "Is that all, sir?"

"That's all. If you wish anything regarding details, you will see Mr.
Smith of the main office. I wish again to impress you that this mission
is important."

It struck me so at once. A few millions in diamonds in ten fathoms--in
a ten-ton safe! Yes, that was something worth looking after. It was
important, all right. Seemed easy enough. Any one who knows anything
about wrecking, knows that ten fathoms isn't too deep to work, although
it's some little ways down. It depends also upon other conditions,
which might or might not prevail. I'd get that safe easy enough--yank
it aboard all standing, as we say at sea.

Well, within two days I was standing on the bridge of the _Prince
John_, and wondering how the poor fellows in Africa managed to keep a
ship of her class afloat long enough to lay her up.

It was the company's policy to have their African steamers laid up at
Cape Town--helped labor, local progress, and all that sort of thing. In
reality they got the work done for about half what it would cost them
in England.

The _Prince John_ could make ten knots under most favorable
circumstances, but as this was her lay-up voyage, she, as might be
imagined, was not doing her best. I think she rammed along about eight,
most of the way down; and McDougal, the chief engineer, was working
like a machinist from daylight till dark to get her to do that.

We carried only the crew of six seamen and ten firemen, with two
engineers, a donkeyman, a pair of mates, a cook, and galley boy. Just
two dozen of us all told; and, while I had never commanded a ship of
any size before, I was not suffering much from swelled cranium as I
stood upon the bridge and gave orders.

Low-powered, black-sided, with the regulation Clyde bow and round
stern, she was no better than a tramp. We carried extra diving and
hoisting gear for the wrecking crew that had preceded us. Our winches
were heavy, and built for working in the African trade where a ship
must handle her own cargo. They would be useful in the work ahead.

My mates, Simpson and Dennison, were good men, and knew their little
book all right. Simpson had a very red nose, and looked as if he
liquored on the sly, but he never showed groggy on duty, so I had no
chance to call him down. He would continue the voyage as captain after
I got that safe up and on its way to England. Dennison was young and
boyish. He was a good lad, and never slept in his watch on deck--at
least I never caught him.

The run was uneventful, and we were sooner or later close to the West
African coast, running through an oily sea, and pointing for Lagos.

One hot and stifling morning after I had worked the sight, I was
sitting in a deck chair at the pilot-house door, thinking of Lucy
Docking, and how I might make a saving of fifteen pounds a month out of
a salary fixed at twelve. This mathematical problem was unfinished when
Dennison hailed me from the bridge.

"Vessel right ahead, sir, anchored about a mile and a half offshore,"
he said.

It was our friends, the wrecking crew, and we had arrived.

The topmasts of the _Heraldine_ stuck clear of the oily sea. She had
been a three-masted ship with square rig forward and fore and aft upon
the main and mizzen. She had sails upon her spars already bent after
the old-time style of low-powered ships. She lay easily in about ten or
twelve fathoms, and had a slight list to port owing to her settling a
bit upon her bilge.

Being very flat and wide-bottomed, she looked almost ready to rise and
continue her voyage lying as she did in that smooth sea, and being
unhurt save for that gash in her bilge where the broken crank tore
through, thrashing her life out before the engineer could shut off
steam.

I pictured for a moment the huge flail, the piston with the broken
crank attached, the pieces not less than half a ton, whirling up and
down under the full pressure of her cylinders with nothing to stop
it. There must have been a wild mess in that engine room with a crazy
hammer going full tilt like that.

As in most single-screw ships, her crank must have thrown down when
connected but a foot or two above her bilge, and when it tore loose it
must have struck full power at each and every wild throw of the piston.

My business was not to raise her, however. She was not worth it, having
insurance, and being better as a total loss. I was after getting into
the treasure room situated just beneath the main deck forward of the
boilers.

The room, from the drawings furnished by her builders, was an iron
compartment ten by fifteen feet. At one end of it--the forward one--was
built the huge safe. This was bolted down, and to the beams.

It was not a new affair, having done duty for years in the African
trade, but it had a very effective combination lock of the usual kind,
and, as one would have to open the strong-room door before being able
to get to the combination of the safe, it was considered perfectly
competent to carry any amount of treasure.

Mr. Haswell, of Haswell & Jones, submarine experts, came aboard from
the powerful wrecking tug, which lay near us. He was a little man, but
quite fat. Red hair and whiskers gave his pale face a peculiar sickly
tint, but he was not a sickly man. He was reckoned one of the best
deep-water workers in England, and could stand a very high pressure for
a long time. Little pale eyes looked shrewdly at me as he presented
his card, coming aboard as he did from a boat rowed by six sturdy
blacks--"kroo boys," he called them. I met him at the side, and shook
hands.

"We're ready to begin whenever you say," he said. "I got the firm's
letter, and have only just arrived myself. They told me you had the
gear aboard with you."

"Yes, I have plenty of gear, all right," I answered, "and you can
commence work to-day if you want to. This place is too cold for me, and
I'd just as soon get away from here the next day, if possible."

"It's some hot, all right, but one don't notice it below so much. I
suppose those derricks you've got will hold all right--what?" And he
gazed at our hoisting gear.

The thermometer was one hundred and six under the after awning, and not
a breath of air stirring. The hot, sandy coast shone like a white band,
fringing the blue water, and I wondered what kind of weather it was on
that white, sandy shore.

We went over the gear together, and then sat sweating and panting for
air, while the steward brought us something cool to drink--that is,
as cool as could be procured. Then I went with Mr. Haswell aboard the
wrecking tug, and was introduced to the working force.

Ten white men and twenty blacks were the outfit. This with what I had
was enough to raise the ship had we so wished. Only two of the white
men were divers--Williams, a sturdy fellow weighing nearly three
hundred; and Mitchell, a short, powerful man, about two hundred and
fifty. Both were under forty, and had done plenty of deep-water work.
They looked upon the job as trifling.

"We'll blow the deck off to-morrow, and then tear out a side of the
room," said Haswell. "After that we can disconnect the safe, and you
can get your winches to do the rest. In three days we ought to cover
the job."

The hot, oily calm continued. The night was something fierce to
contemplate. The sun came out again like a molten ball of metal, and
Haswell donned his suit lazily, while the air pumps, manned by four
blacks, were started.

A ladder reaching a fathom down under the sea was fastened to the tug's
side, and Haswell lowered himself over upon it, and waited for his
helmet. This was fastened by Williams, and then the air was started.

As it whistled into the dome, the front glass was screwed on, and the
little man was shut off from us. Slowly he went down and swung clear,
dropping out of sight in a storm of bubbles which rose from his helmet.

I took out the water glass. This was a cylindrical bucket with a glass
bottom. By jamming one's head into the bucket and sinking the bottom of
the affair under the sea to a depth of three or four inches, objects
could be seen about twice as distinctly as without it--this owing to
the fact that in the open the reflection and motion of the light upon
the always moving sea surface, prevent the gaze from following objects
distinctly.

In order to use the water glass it was, of course, necessary to get
close to the sea.

I dropped into the small boat lying alongside the wrecking tug, and
leaned far over the gunwale, peering down. The long, easy swell, the
sure sign of an immense calm area of sea, came slowly from the westward
and rolled the boat gently but enough to keep me from getting a good
look until I caught my balance. Then I managed to get the glass down
firmly, and hold it about four inches under with my head in the bucket.

At first I could make out little or nothing. The sea was not very clear
at the spot, owing to the close proximity of the low, sandy shore where
the surf rolled incessantly, stirring up the bottom. Soon I could make
out the outline of the deck below where the flying bridge rose within
three fathoms of the surface.

The _Heraldine_ was drawing about twenty-two feet when she sank, and
her flying bridge was fully twenty-five to thirty above the sea. I
tried to see farther, but could make out nothing at all.

The lines of the diver led toward the fore part of the ship, and moved
slightly. Williams, who tended them, sat listlessly upon the rail of
the tug, and gave or drew in as the occasion called. I kept looking to
see things, but could make out nothing further in the way of the wreck.

A huge shadow passed under me--a long, dark shape. It was a gigantic
shark nosing about the wreck.

I called out to Williams.

"No fear," he replied lazily; "they won't hurt him in that dress--might
if he was naked."

The shark passed along forward, and sank down out of sight. Then
Haswell signaled that he was coming up.

He came slowly, and I watched the lines coming in. Soon the metal
helmet appeared, and then he climbed with seeming difficulty up the
ladder, helped by Williams. When he came above the rail, he hung over
it, and his front glass was unscrewed, the pumps stopped working, and
we came close to hear the news.

"Located her all right," he said. "You can fix up about twenty pounds
of number two gelatine--better put it in a tube, and be sure to make
the wires fast--have to pull it through some wreckage down there."

"See anything of a big shark?" I asked.

"Oh, yes, I gave him a poke in the stomach with a stick--he won't
bother me in this dress--but I did get nipped by one of those poisonous
snakes--see?" And he held out his hand, where a small trickle of blood
ran down from the second joint of his forefinger.

Williams gave an exclamation. The natives looked at him anxiously.

"I'll come aboard and rest a while before going down again," said
Haswell. And he was helped aboard, and undressed.

His finger swelled while this was being done, and, by the time he stood
in his flannels, he had a hand that was fast turning black. Williams
said little. The poisonous water snakes that infest certain tropical
seas close to the river mouths were known to him. Those in the Indian
Ocean are especially dangerous.

Haswell gazed at the blackening finger, and shook his head.

"Better give me some whisky," he said. He drank, and sat down.
Williams stood near, and Mitchell came up.

"That's a bad bite," said Mitchell.

"Well, I suppose there's no use waiting any longer--cut it off, and be
quick," said Haswell.

Mitchell, iron-nerved and steady, cut the finger off close to the hand,
and stopped the flow of blood with a strong bandage. The swelling
continued, and the arm began to pain greatly.

"Cut away the hand," said Haswell, white and shaky, but showing an
amazing coolness. He realized his danger. Mitchell performed another
amputation.

Within an hour they had his arm off at the elbow, and Haswell was
turning blue all over.

It was an uncanny thing--right there in that bright sunshine, a man
done a mortal injury by some foul sea vermin that had attacked him in
the depths. I had heard of the sea snakes that come down the African
rivers and go well offshore, but had never seen one. Those in the
Indian Ocean I had seen often, and remembered that they were about four
or five feet long and a few inches in circumference.

Haswell, with remarkable nerve, faced his end unflinchingly. It was
wonderful to see him sitting there, unafraid, with his arm three times
its natural size at the shoulder where the last bandage of Mitchell had
been fastened.

"I reckon I'll last about an hour longer," he finally said.
"It's--no--use." His strength was leaving him, and he spoke haltingly,
in hardly more than a whisper.

They gave him more whisky, and waited. Then Williams took down his last
words in reference to his family affairs, and Haswell laid himself down
on a transom. Two hours later he was stone dead.

That was a beginning that would have shaken the nerve of many men.
Mitchell had his partner sewn up in canvas, and they buried him far out
at sea, rowing off in the small boat.

The next day Williams started down. He found the location of the strong
room, and was careful to wear heavy gloves while working. Then he
placed the charge.

The crack that followed was not loud--deep down as it was. A storm of
bubbles arose to the surface, and the sea lifted a few inches just over
the place where the gelatine exploded. Then Mitchell prepared to go
down and examine the result.

The oily sea heaved and sank with the long swell, and there was
nothing to indicate that there would be any trouble. Nothing could
move the wreck. Mitchell went under at eleven that morning, and, after
he had been down half an hour, Williams signaled him. He received no
answer. With some anxiety, the big man started to haul line, when, to
the horror of all, the two lines--hose and life line--came in easily
without anything at their end.

The hose showed a clean cut well down near the helmet, and the life
line showed a ragged cut or break which stranded it out a full foot.
Mitchell was left below, cut off from us as clean as if he had been
left upon the moon.

Williams strove with all haste to get into another suit, but it was
a good ten minutes before he did so. He went down with a man of his
outfit holding line for him, and came back in ten minutes with a white
face and staring eyes.

"Whole side of the room fell on him," he said; "cut his hose and--and
left him there. Give me a line, I'll get him out."

"Dead?" I whispered.

He looked up at me from the circular hole in the helmet, and seemed to
think me mad.

"Dead? Of course, he's dead--a ton or two of iron on top of him, and no
air--sure he's dead. We'll have to put the line to the winch to haul
him out from under it."

We buried Mitchell as we had Haswell, hauling him from under the
wreckage by a line to our steam winch, and afterward carrying him well
out to sea, where he was weighted and sunk. It was bitter work, and all
the time that hot sun shone down upon us until the seams of the decks
warped and the tar ran out of the lanyards.

Williams was shaken. The next day he refused to go down, and pleaded a
rest necessary. His men were silent and awed. I could say nothing to
urge them on, as I felt that they had endured enough for a few days, at
least.

Then Williams was taken with the African fever, and there was no one
left who would go below for any amount of money offered. The horror of
the thing had shaken the nerves of the entire outfit. There might be
millions below there, but no man of that crew would touch them just
at present, and we were lying there in that oily sea, eating up the
company's money and cursing at the strange chance that had made our
expedition so fatal.

       *       *       *       *       *

At the end of a week Williams was so bad that I gave him up as a factor
to help us. At times he was delirious, and raved horribly. His men
were for abandoning the work, and putting into Lagos, and from there
clearing for home.

I refused to hear of such a thing, although I was a bit worked up at
the outcome of what had at first appeared to be an easy job. To send
North for more divers was to delay the work months. To await the coming
of the next coast steamer meant delay of at least three weeks--and
even then there was no certainty of help from her. She didn't carry
divers, and, although she would naturally give me any aid in her power,
belonging to our company as she did, I felt that I would rather not ask
anything from her skipper until the last act.

A man named Rokeby of the tug's working crew offered to tend line for
me if I chose to go down. He assured me that the pressure at fifty
or even sixty feet would not injure me. I might suffer some from the
splitting headache natural to the pressure, but that was all. I could
blow open the safe or get chains fast to it, or cut it adrift somehow.

I thought over the matter while Williams raved and rolled in his
sweltering bunk, and the sun shone down upon that dead ocean full of
crawling life and hidden treasure.

"Gimme the gloves and plenty of air," I finally said, after waiting
three days, hoping that some of the wrecking crew would get their nerve
back.

They all showed willingness to work if I went down, and I was soon
incased in the suit of Williams.

If you think I was not nervous, you should have had an inside photo
of my mind as I stood there upon the rounds of the ladder waiting for
Rokeby to screw fast the front glass. I would have given it up but for
the looks of the men. They seemed to gaze upon me with a sort of awe
and amazement, but they made no comment whatever.

The kroo boys swung the pump handles with a will, and when I heard
the hiss of the air I must say my heart gave two jumps and came near
landing overboard--at least, it felt that way; but I would have died
rather than let those men see that I was afraid. Such is the ego, the
vanity of us all.

"Shall I screw her on, sir?"

The voice was Rokeby's, and it aroused me from the contemplation of the
thing to do. I tried to look bored and annoyed.

"Yes, screw it down--mind the lines tenderly, and pull me right up if I
give the signal," I said.

"Aye, aye, sir," he answered, and he screwed in the front glass.

The air whistled into the helmet back of my head, and the noise aroused
me to a sense of the danger should it suddenly cease. I put one foot
and then another upon the ladder rungs, and went down until I swung off.

It seemed as if I was about to fly off into space, and for a few
moments I almost lost my balance. Then my heavy leaden shoes sank me
straight down, and I dropped slowly until my feet touched something.

The light had gradually faded as I left the surface, and where I now
stood it seemed to be pitch dark. The pressure of the air appeared to
swell my head, and a roaring was in my ears. Then I determined to do
something, and bent forward to see if I could.

Gradually the dim outline of the ship's deck took form before the
glass--that is, the deck in my immediate vicinity. I could make out the
rail, and began pulling myself along by it. Soon I came to the pilot
house forward, and recognized it by feeling the panels of the glass
front with my hands.

I knew that I was just about right in regard to position, and started
for the rail to get over the side and down to the place where the
blow-out had been made. I carefully swung one leg over and then
another, amazed at the ease with which I lifted the immense leaden
shoes. Then guiding my air hose and line clear of the rail, I slipped
off, and dropped down to the bottom far below.

In spite of the fact that I had now been under several minutes, I could
not make out objects well enough to do anything; but determined to try
to feel for the opening to the safe. After ten minutes spent groping
about, I felt an immense hole in the ship's side, my fingers going
carefully around the edges where the torn plates told of the force of
the blast.

I entered and felt for the sides of the room within where the blast
had torn out the iron and held it hanging to drop upon the unfortunate
Mitchell. I now saw I could do nothing without more light, and
carefully made my way out to the sea floor, where I signaled to haul me
up.

I came slowly, and as I did so my brain appeared swelling until it
seemed no longer possible to hold it within my skull. The pain was
intense, and I hardly noticed the growing light until I was at the foot
of the ladder. Then I climbed up, being dragged bodily by my life line.
The front was taken off my helmet, and I spoke.

"It's all right," I panted, "get the lamp out, and stand by to send me
down the tools I'll need."

Rokeby gave me a small drink of whisky, and the rest soon had the
electric lamp ready. I went below again. This time I had no trouble in
finding my way, for the light from the spark penetrated the sea for
several feet about me.

In the watery darkness I made out the hole, and saw the damage done by
the charge. The entire wall of the compartment had been blown in, and,
in going into the room, Mitchell had gotten under it so that he had
dislodged an immense piece of plate which had fallen upon him, and cut
off his air and line.

I went forward cautiously, and poked the lamp ahead of me. It seemed
a long way to the safe, but I finally came up against it, and made out
its outline in the lamplight. Its edge stood out sharply. Beyond was
the inky blackness of a tomb.

I saw that it would be necessary for me to blow it loose from the
beams, as I was not good enough workman to cut or loosen the bolts.
Making a hasty but pretty good examination of the bottom and sides,
I determined to go back aboard and study it out. A little powder
underneath would loosen the floor bolts, and then, with a stout chain
about it, we might start the winches to haul it through the opening,
which I saw would have to be enlarged at the bottom. I came up, and was
satisfied for the day.

The next morning I had recovered my nerve to a great extent, and was
eager to get to work. The men were also better pleased at the prospect.
My head had bothered me all night, but now eased up, as I donned the
rubber.

So far I had seen neither fish nor crawling reptile. The bottom was not
very soft, however, and was so covered with weed and sea growths that
it may have harbored many things not visible to the eye at that depth.
I kept to the gloves, not daring to risk my hands after Haswell's fatal
ending.

The first shot tore the bottom off the compartment, and left the safe
hanging by the bolts against the bulkhead. The second shot broke away
these, and, when I went down again, I found the safe had dropped down
to the deck below, the powder, or rather nitrogelatine, having torn
the deck away for the space of fifteen feet or more, leaving ragged
splinters of deck planking sticking forth.

The electric lamp showed the mass below me as I stood at the edge of
the hole, and I very carefully drew my line and air so that they would
not foul when I dropped over. Then I went down and found the safe
intact, but in a very difficult position to handle.

The next blast required a large charge, in order to blow the side out
down to the lower deck, as it was impossible to drag that safe up
through the hole. I placed fifty pounds of gelatine in two charges just
abreast the safe on the outside of the hull, and blew away the plates
until a trolley car could almost have entered the hole in the ship's
side.

I was all ready now for getting slings upon the treasure, and I could
hardly wait until the next day.

The wreck was in very bad shape below from the effects of the blasts,
but I was nearly done now. Another day might find the diamonds upon the
deck of the old ship above me. I managed to pass turns of a heavy chain
around the safe, and stop them up so that they could be hocked to the
fall. Then I got the tackle down, and by means of a whip to the tug
started the mass of metal outboard.

It came along all right, and I thought it would go clear. Then
something suddenly stopped it below, and I had to go down again to
clear it. It was fast in the hole, having jammed against the edge so
that no amount of pulling would break it clear.

I lost no time getting another tackle to it, and rigged it to lift it
end up, and turn it over, then the first fall would pull it out and
clear. I was getting pretty well used to being below by this time, and
the headache was lessening. I found that I could remain under fully
half an hour now, and work most of that time.

The last time I went below I had a premonition that all was not as
it should be down there, and I went along very carefully. I made my
way into the ship's hull, and was just getting the new tackle set up
taut and ready, when the whole ship heeled suddenly to port. The safe
slewed sideways and slid down the now slanting deck, blocking the hole
entirely across, but leaving my lines and tackle clear.

I signaled to come up at once. Then my line jerked, hauled me close up
to the opening, and there I jammed, stuck so I could not get back. I
signaled frantically for help, and they pulled me with all their might.
But they might as well have tried to lift the wreck itself. I was
caught.

During the next few minutes I thought a great deal. The horror of my
situation dawned upon me. I was fast below there--not a chance for
getting out. There seemed nothing to do, but wait placidly for the end.

The next few minutes were hours to me. I could signal with the line,
but that was all. They knew I was alive, and they knew something must
have happened by the heeling of the sunken wreck.

The blasting had probably blown away the sandy bottom under her, and
she had simply cast over and slid the stuff to leeward.

There was plenty of room to take that safe out endways, but it was now
so fixed that some one would have to slew it around before that could
be done. My lamp was still burning, and the blackness lost some of its
terrors in that pitiful light.

I was in the hull of a lost ship, and I felt that I was indeed a lost
man. Memories came and went with lightning-like rapidity. I thought of
Lucy Docking, and wondered how she would take my death. Then I began to
feel the effects of the pressure, and my head grew flighty.

I dreamed of beautiful blue skies and green fields, the shore, the
mountains; and all the time Lucy was with me, going from place to
place. I was not unhappy. There was a feeling of contentment with the
woman I had chosen, and it was all real, so real that I only awoke
under the vicious pulling upon my life line by the men above.

Then the horror of my situation came back to me, and the roaring in my
ears told me of my predicament. I gazed out of the front glass into the
dark medium about me, the rays of the lamp making sharp outlines and
shadows.

I remembered the safe. It lay jammed across the hole, and, while I
was too feeble to take great interest, I recall watching it with a
sort of fascination. I felt its sides, its edges. Then the combination
attracted me, shining as it did in the dim light, like a bit of white
in the surrounding blackness. I lazily turned the knob, whirled it
about. And all the time they were pumping air to me under the pressure
of fifty feet of water.

I felt at the aperture above where the edge of the safe shut off the
opening. There was nearly a foot of clear room, but this was not enough
for my figure, incased as it was in the suit. It was ample for the life
line and hose to pass through without any interruption at all, and all
I had to do was to live long enough for them to get that safe away.
Surely some one would come down, and try to sling it again properly.

I lay with my front glass to the opening, and held the lamp so that
the rays would shine outside. There I watched and tried to control the
thoughts that kept coming with a surging feeling of dread that made my
heart thump all the harder. Drowsiness would come, and the whirling
in my brain would get me back again to the land and beautiful dreams.
Then the jerking and hauling, and trying to dislodge me would arouse me
again, and I would come back to the present.

I remember watching through the opening, and seeing forms passing.
These must have been fish, or denizens of the sea. They flitted through
the range of the lamp like sudden ghosts, the light striking their
bodies, and then disappearing into the blackness without.

The lamp suddenly went out.

I was seized with the wildest terror at the inky blackness about me.
The full horror of it all now came with greater force. That tiny
spark had kept me up wonderfully. It had seemed like a ray of hope.
I put out my hands with muscles shaking and trembling, feeling that
inexorable edge of iron that shut me off from life.

Would Rokeby try it? Would he try to save me?

That was the final thought. I tried to put myself in his place. I would
do much for a man dying by inches--dying where he might be saved if one
would take a little risk. He might get below in time yet. He might get
a whip upon that safe, and, with the powerful wrecking tug working her
winches, upset the huge square of steel, and drag it out of the way.

But if he was coming down, he should have come hours ago. As a matter
of fact, I had already been down half an hour, and I could stand it
for at least twice that long yet. But it seemed to me that I had been
abandoned, that they were too cowardly to try to save me. My whirling
brain and roaring ears told me a story of days of suffering, of
interminable torture.

Would Rokeby try it?

I remembered how it struck me when Mitchell's line came up cut off
from him. I knew what that poor fellow had gone through; what he had
suffered, at least, for a few moments down there.

No, I would hardly blame Rokeby for not trying it. It was too dangerous
for any one to try. And yet----

That latent hope, that feeling that there would be something at last,
kept me from dying. The air was still coming down, and I was in no
immediate danger.

I tried to make myself think that I was in no danger at all; that all
would be well when Rokeby came down, and got a hold of the safe. But I
knew in my heart that the men above, the whole general crew, were not
the men to help.

As a record of fact, the men above were awed at the disaster, and
only Rokeby's steadiness saved my life. He had the pumps kept going,
and finally decided that he would have to take a chance down there,
or let me die like a hooked fish. He was man enough to overcome the
nerve-shaking dangers that had beset us, and he put on another suit.
Then, with his breath fairly gone from fright, he went down to help me.

He had never gone below before, except under most favorable conditions
and in very shallow water. Still, he knew what to do, and he managed
to get a good man above to tend line for him. He found things in bad
shape at the opening, but lost no more time than he could help getting
a purchase to the end of that safe, and the winches started. In half
an hour they had dragged it clear of the ship, and I was hauled aboard
insensible, but still alive.

Before I had regained my senses, they had the safe fast aboard the old
hooker, and I had the satisfaction of staggering on deck to view it.

There it was, all right, perfectly intact. I had saved the company
several millions, and it had cost the lives of two men, and nearly my
own.

There was not a moment lost in getting away from that hot, unhealthy
coast. We got under way that very evening with Williams still stricken
with the fever, and myself too weak to sit up, but I would not stop a
minute.

"Get her under way at once," I said, and the mates needed no urging.

The wrecking tug, under full steam, came alongside, and the safe was
slung carefully over to her deck, where it was bolted down and made as
fast as a sailor could make it. I put a metal line about it, and sealed
it up, not even willing to trust to the safe combination that had
withstood the blasts and the sea.

"Good-by, and a pleasant voyage to the Cape for you," I said to my
former shipmates. They steamed away to the southward to lay the old
ship up for repairs, and we, in the mighty wrecker, _Viking_, under
full power and making fifteen knots the hour, stood back for old
England, where we arrived safe enough a short time later.



A TWO-STRANDED YARN

PART I.


"Captain Gantline?" The words escaped me like a shot from a gun.

"Sure as eggs--'n where did you come from?" said that stout seaman. He
stood at the bar of Bill's place on Telegraph Hill, drinking rum. His
eyes, crinkled up at the corners like the ripples of a ship's cutwater
in a smooth sea, were bloodshot and liquor-soaked. Old man Gantline was
broad of beam and shorter than myself--no real good seaman is tall--and
he raised his empty glass and hammered upon the bar with it.

"Gimme another drink," said he to the barkeeper. Then he turned to me.
"So it's you fer sure, old man--well, well, what a small world it is,
after all! Take a nip--I'm sure glad to see you--an' how'd it happen?"

I saw that old Gantline was getting drunk. It was a shame. The old
skipper was a crack packet skipper. I was amazed at him, for he was not
a drinking man. I wondered what made him do it. The barkeeper was now
opening another bottle, and I knew the old sailor had drunk much.

"I blew in from New York around the Cape last week," I said.

"Must 'a' been blowin' some, hey, then--kinder quick passage--what?"

"Oh, I don't mean I made the run in a week--we were one hundred and
sixty days--but I've been here in Frisco a week. And I've spent all the
money I saved from the munificent owners of the British ship _Glenmar_,
who rated me as second mate at thirty per--or, rather, five pun ten a
month. I tried to eat something since I came in to make up for what
I didn't get at sea. Those Englishmen are sure on short commons, all
right--but I haven't been drinking. I don't drink."

"I do," said Gantline.

"I see it," I answered; "but it don't seem to do you any good, though
it isn't for me to tell you so, I know. A drink or two don't hurt any
one much, but pour it in, and come with me, and listen to my tale of
woe. I need some one who knows something to listen to me--I'm broke."

"Well, I dunno as I might jest as well," sighed Gantline. "I'll take a
couple more noggins--then you can come down to the ship with me."

"Sure, that's just what we'll do--go down aboard--hurry up and poison
yourself sufficiently," I said, and waited until he had soaked down a
few more drafts of liquid fire. Then, as he was growing unsteady, I
linked his arm in my own, and we went slowly down Market Street until
we came to the water front.

"That's her layin' out there--_Silas Tanner_--four masts--or are they
five? Sink me if I kin count 'em, Clew! You count 'em for me--seems
like there's more'n half a dozen sticks risin' outen her--hey? Maybe
Slade's stuck more in her, thinkin' four ain't enough----"

"What? A schooner? You in a schooner--how'd you come to go in a
fore-and-after, Gantline? You, an old square-rigger!"

"That's hit, thash hit, Clew--me, an old seaman, in a coaster--for'n
aft--Chinks for passengers--cabin, too--ladies aft--I'm clear drunk,
Clew--an' I don't care 'f 'am--nuff to make a man drunk," mumbled
Gantline.

It was high time to get him to his ship. I hailed a small boat, and got
him aboard, and then we went out to the _Tanner_--four-masted schooner,
now riding at anchor off Market Street, San Francisco, waiting for a
tide and something I could not guess as yet.

She was heavily loaded, all right, and I wondered at the old man's
conduct the more. The idea of him forgetting himself at the last
minute! It was too much. And with a mate like Slade--Slade, who had
sailed in several ships with me, the best mate I had known for many a
year. We drew alongside.

"Lower down the side ladder--the skipper's coming up," I sang out, and
a head came to the high rail. It was the mate's.

"Christopher Columbus! How'd this happen?" asked Slade. "And how--how'd
you turn up? I'm glad to see you, old man--pass him up--look out he
don't fall overboard."

We managed to get the skipper on deck, and then below to his bunk,
Slade questioning me all the time, and asking about times gone by.
Then, after we had the old man safely stowed, we came on deck together,
and Slade told me the trouble.

"Bound out for Guam with cargo and fifty coolies--Chinks--for labor
there. We got a passenger's license, and take out several first class
to Manila, besides. Loaded down with general cargo, and two safes full
of silver for circulation at Agaña--about ten thousand dollars."

"Well, what's the trouble?" I asked.

"The old man don't like the coolie idea," Slade went on. "He hates
Chinks. We got all loaded up, and then the owners sent word that we
must provide quarters for fifty men--Chinamen, too, at that--and the
old man threw a fit. He'd have quit the ship, but he's bought into
her, and can't do it. We had to clear out the alleyways under the
poop, knock ports in the sides, and build up a line of shelves for
'em to sleep on--twenty-five on a side, and right next the after
saloon---couldn't get them below--see the doors we cut in the bulkhead?
Lets 'em out on deck. It's a government contract, and it's good pay,
all right--but them dirty coolies! It's a shame to make an old fellow
like Gantline carry them--he hates' em so."

"Who's second under you?" I asked.

"Nobody--thought you'd come for it. Isn't that what you're here for?"

"Not that I know of," I answered. "But I'll take it if the old man says
so, all right, all right. I've been ashore long enough--broke, too."

"Sure thing," said Slade. "You're as good as signed on right now--soon
as he gets over it he'll ask you to go--never saw the old man like that
before, and it's a pity, too. 'Never thought I'd run a slaver,' says
he--and I don't much blame him, either."

"I'll send down my dunnage in the morning," I said. "How about the
crew?"

"Well, we'll get them, all right. Whisky Bill's attended to it--we'll
get ten men--all we need with the engine for handling line."

I hastened ashore to settle my affairs and get my dunnage down to the
ship.

In payment for my last week's board I gave my landlord a whale's
tooth, carved prettily--or, rather, I left it behind for him to accept
gracefully, and before daylight in the morning I was aboard the
_Tanner_. Gantline was so glad to see me come that he almost forgot his
headache. I signed for the voyage and went on duty.

The decks of the schooner were somewhat disordered that morning she was
to leave. Honolulu was her first stop, and there was much to go on deck
for that shorter run. The crimp had just brought down the men, and we
mates upset each seaman's bag of dunnage, and scattered the contents
about the gangway. We searched for hidden liquor and firearms, well
knowing a sailor's habits, and we knocked things about a little hunting
for them. The poor, half-sober devils could separate their belongings
afterward as best they might.

The result of the search was that, after the mate had confiscated a few
bottles of stuff and a couple of out-of-date revolvers and ammunition,
the general pile divided up among the men was enough to refill each bag
again, the effort of sorting personal belongings at that moment being
entirely too laborious to entertain.

Slade took two bottles, and managed to secrete them upon his person
while the eye of the skipper was diverted to a passenger who had just
appeared. Slade was slanting toward the forward cabin with the goods,
closely followed by his emulating second officer, when the voice of the
old man roared out orders for me to see to getting the baggage of the
passengers below without delay. I turned, somewhat disappointed, just
as Slade entered the door of the saloon and winked slowly and meaningly
at me.

With some small encomiums pronounced upon the untimely work cut out
for me, I turned to the gangway, and ordered up a few men in tones and
language I should hate to repeat.

As I did so I suddenly came face to face with the passenger who had
come from behind a cab and started down the gangway plank to the ship's
deck. She put her lorgnette up to her eyes and gazed smilingly at me.
Then she was joined by a younger woman, a girl about twenty, who took
the older woman's arm, led her down the plank to the deck, and went
right into the door of the forward cabin, leaving me staring as though
I had seen a ghost.

"I don't got no good eyes, den, if dat ain't de purtiest gal I ever
see," said a Dutchman who was waiting to hear further orders from me.
Another man, with a loose lip, looked up and scratched his head.

"Get, you squareheads--get a move on before something happens to you,"
I growled.

"I do love to hear them swear so," said the elder lady, as she reached
the door. "They're such romantic fellows--so bold--oh, dear, just hear
what that man----"

"Come along, auntie, come back where the captain is. I never heard such
language before, and I don't think it a bit romantic--no, not at all.
It's all dreadfully vulgar, and all that--but that man--well, well, he
does say some amusing things, even if they are not what they should be."

Miss Aline MacDonald led her aunt aft, and I breathed easier. That she
had flung me a sort of compliment was certain. I knew it. I had more
queer ways of cussing out a Dutchman than any Yankee mate afloat--I
knew that--but----

Gantline met them as they entered, and extended his hand.

"Come aft, ladies, come aft, and I'll have the stewardess show you your
rooms at once--hope they'll suit you--best in the ship. Of course, we
don't compete with the steamers, but a voyage in this schooner will be
worth two in a steamer as a health restorer. If things ain't the way
you like them, sing out--I'll do the best I can." And he led the way
aft to where a Kanaka woman took them in charge. Then I ducked into the
mate's room, and joined Slade for a few minutes. He had already pulled
a cork.

"Ain't adverse none to passengers," said he, pouring out the liquor,
"but you may sink me if that old un don't come near the limit--you hear
me?"

"Give me a drink and shut up about passengers," I grinned. "The old
one's all right. She appreciated my education--sort of goo-gooed at me
while I was laying out some language--quick with the booze, before the
old man gets wise to it."

We hurried back on deck in time to take charge of things, and we were
soon ready and waiting for the coolies, who were to come aboard from
the tug that would tow us out to sea.

The tug _Raven_ took our towline and we warped out, swung around, and
were headed for the open sea within a few minutes. The engineer had
steam up in the donkey, and the winches turned. Our crew were used to
fore-and-aft canvas, and Slade took the turns as the halyards came to
the revolving drums, being helped, as I may say, by his second mate,
who held the peak as he held the throat.

We snatched stoppers upon them as the sails came to the mastheads, and
in less time than it takes to tell we had all save the headsails on
the _Tanner_, and were standing out. The tug dropped back, and came
alongside, taking her lines.

"Stand by fer yore passengers," bawled a red-headed fellow, grinning
from the pilot house.

I now saw a crowd of yellow-tails gathering on the tug's deck.
Fifty-seven of them, all told, led by a giant yellow man in a skullcap
and long, braided cue. A chattering babble of Chink talk, and the big
fellow hustled the crowd to the rail, up the schooner's side, and on
deck in less than a minute.

Bundles, packages, clothes, came with them, and Slade gave up the
premeditated job of searching them in a few moments as he saw the
yellow men gather up their belongings and crowd about the break of the
poop, jamming in a mass right under the edge from where Gantline leaned
over and gazed down at them in sour amazement and distrust.

"Me makee dem tlake-a down, down," cooed the giant leader in a
sing-song voice, pointing with his hand at the crowd of Chinamen.

"Yes, git below--git out an' be quick about it," snarled the old man
from above him. "You're blockin' the decks--slam 'em in the alleyways,
git 'em out the way," he continued to Slade and myself.

"No lika men high, a-a-h, aye, makee down, down," sang the giant, with
a glint in his little slits of eyes.

He was an ugly animal. Talk about your Oriental being a degenerate!
Well, that fellow was nothing degenerate physically. He was six
feet four, and about half as wide across the hulking shoulders. A
thin-lipped mouth ran clear across his face; his nose was flat, like an
African's. A whitish-blue scar had ripped his pleasing features from
eye to chin on the starboard side, and his head was enormous.

The hair was shaved close up to the limits of that skullcap of black
silk, and from under its lower end there dropped a cue about a fathom
long, all done up with silk cords and stuff, until a pretty little
black tassel was plaited into the end, surmounted by a Matthew Walker
knot and a couple of Turks' heads.

He was something to notice, all right, and his voice was grand.
Nothing of the nervous squeak of the coolie about it. It sang along
with flutelike notes that bristled full of "I's" and "Ah's," until you
thought he was singing it to his men in a sort of deep bass or baritone.

Understand him? Did you ever know any white man who could understand a
Chink if that fellow didn't talk for him to understand it? No, we took
it for granted that the "boss" coolie was on the level, and was arguing
with the herd to corral them into the alleyways where they belonged. He
understood the skipper right enough.

A stout yellow man edged from the press about the door of the forward
house, and came to the big man's side. A soft gabble, then a yell, then
the herd took the alleyways on the jump, and inside of ten seconds
there was not a yellowskin on deck.

"Got 'em trained, all right enough," said Slade, with a grin. "The old
man needn't worry about 'em if the big one goes at it that way."

"Fifty-seven Chinks on a dead man's chest--and I'll bet my month's pay
they've a bottle of rum--maybe a hundred," I ventured. "What's the big
cheese's name?"

"Sink me, if I know! The old man called him 'Yaller Dog,' and he's
that, all solid. Let it go at that. I'd sure like to have him in my
watch. What a man he'd make on a earing in a blow!"

"Shall we deal them their rice raw or cooked?" I asked. "I suppose they
won't eat it if it's cooked in the galley, and then they'd be trying to
build fires under the cabin or in the lazaret to boil it."

"No; let 'em eat it or throw it overboard. What do you care? Turn the
men to, and choose the watch, and then I'll go below for a rest."

I did so, and soon the Farallones were disappearing in the east astern.

The first two days out there was so much to do aboard that I hardly
had time to observe things. The decks were lumbered up with all kinds
of gear, and a load of stuff for Honolulu, which took all our time to
secure. The men were under the union scale of the West Coast--that is,
thirty dollars per month--and there was nothing off on account of our
going deep-water in her, for we were not by any means coasting at all,
as our course lay directly across the Pacific Ocean, and the itinerary
took in a voyage of seven thousand miles.

I hated the fore-and-aft canvas. I knew its value on short runs and in
smooth seas, but when it comes to deep water and a rough old ocean,
with a twenty-five-knot wind increasing to fifty, give me the square
canvas with double topsails, that men can handle.

However, we were very fast. The _Tanner_ could do fifteen knots free
on a wind that would jam a square-rigger close and by. Her four masts
were of the usual type, all the same, and her gaff-topsails were high
on the hoist, giving her a tall appearance.

The first day under all sail, with the wind abeam, she rolled off
thirteen and fourteen knots an hour, and kept her decks awash under
a perfect torrent of foam, dragging her rail through a solid mass of
suds. She simply ran, shoved her sharp nose out through it, and slipped
over the long, smooth, rolling swell with a plunging lift that felt
good.

The steam winches for handling line were good. With drums turning,
all one had to do was to snatch the halyard in the deck block, grab a
turn on the drum, and up went anything that could go. Then a stopper
on the line, and to the belaying pin--and all was done. There was no
hee-hawing, no singing of sailor's chanteys, no sailoring of the type
we had known in our earlier days; but I am free to admit that I would
rather have had the steam winches--especially when it came on to blow
and we had to reef her down.

The Chinks were allowed on deck from eight bells in the morning until
eight at night; and they were always getting in the way.

Miss MacDonald and her aunt came on deck most of the time, and sat
wrapped in rugs near the wheel, where the old man entertained them with
tales of the sea. They were greatly interested in the Chinamen.

I found my watch on the poop not at all disagreeable during daylight,
for Miss Aline was good to look at. She was of medium height, with
brown hair that curled in spite of the sea wind, and she was solidly
and strongly built, her figure having lines that told of sturdiness
rather than delicate beauty. But although she was not what one would
call fat, or even stout, she was certainly not thin, and her rounded
face was rosy with health.

Her mouth had a peculiar gentleness of expression, and when she showed
her white teeth to me and flushed a bit upon recognizing the master
handler of fluent oaths, I thought her about as good as they come. I
was a bit embarrassed, but I was only second greaser, and as such could
not sit at the table with her, so I said little.

I told Slade, however, that his hands were unfit to pass salt junk to
a lady--and, for a wonder, he washed them in fresh water before going
below! He was mate, and could sit in with the skipper, while I walked
the deck above and made mental comments upon the irony of fate that
shoved in a fellow like him to entertain a girl that he could not speak
to without stammering like a drunken man, while I-----

It was in my watch during dinner that I had the first real chance
to see our coolie boss. The second week, after things had settled
themselves, and the routine of the ship took the place of the frantic
scramble to get things shipshape, I stood at the break of the poop,
which in the _Tanner_ was very low--not more than four feet above
the deck, as is the case in many schooners--and as I stood there up
popped Yellow Dog, the giant Chink, from the door of the alleyway to
starboard. The beggar was so tall that he was almost on a level with
myself, in spite of the difference in the decks, and I found his eyes
close to mine as he turned and saw me.

"Have any trouble in the passageway?" I asked him, thinking he might
have been a bit mixed in straightening out that gang below in the
narrow space.

He gave me a look, a slanting glance from the corners of his little,
screwed-up eyes, and then he turned his back upon me as if I had been
bilge water, and offended his senses.

"Hey, Yellow Dog! What's the matter with you? Are you tongue-tied?
Don't you know enough of ship's etiquette to answer an officer when he
speaks?" I spat at him.

"I tlakee captain man--not you," he sang, in his musical voice, and he
forthwith strode to the galley, where a Kanaka cook was busy with the
dinner.

"You great big Yellow----" But there is no use of telling what I
remarked to him as he went along that deck. As the officer in command
at the moment, I was not a little offended by this high-handed way of a
common Chink, more especially as I was inquiring for the welfare of his
men.

The cook heard my note of temper, and refused the giant admittance
to his galley's sacred precincts, whereupon Yellow Dog seized him by
the scruff of the neck, and tossed him into the lee scuppers. He was
about to pitch a pot of hot water on top of him, but I interposed an
objection to this action in the shape of a belaying pin which, flung
by my right arm under full swing, struck Yellow Dog fairly upon the
skull-cap, and, bounding off, flew overboard.

The giant staggered, caught himself from falling, then he stood very
straight, and gave me a look that for cold fury expressed more than I
had ever dreamed possible in a Chink.

"Killee you fo' that," he hissed.

"Go on, do your killing, Yellow Dog," I snapped. "But take care you
don't get something yourself--and the next time I speak to you aboard
here, if you don't answer at once you'll find something else bounding
off your dome that you'll remember for a long time. Now send your mess
kids to that galley, and the cook will hand you out your rice and
long-lick."

The men of my watch stopped work where they were, and grinned at the
big Chinaman. Their contempt for the race was more than my own, and I
knew I had the hearty approval of the sailors. At the same time I was
sorry that the thing had happened, for the Chinamen who were already
on deck passed the word along, and by the time I had finished talking
the whole gang of them were standing about, with looks upon their faces
that told of trouble.

It was a bad beginning for a long voyage.

Gantline came on deck as soon as he could finish his dinner, and wanted
to know what the trouble was about, but that was all he said. He
found no fault with my remarks nor with my actions. A ship's officer
must maintain discipline, and discipline cannot be maintained without
respect.

Miss MacDonald came up with her aunt, and I went below to my dinner.
As I passed the door of the forward house leading into the cabin, the
stout Chink who seemed to be a close chum of the big leader glared
at me. He had a sinister face, with little slits of eyes that looked
slantwise, like the eyes of a wolf.

His moustaches were thin and straight along his lip, until they reached
the corners of his wide mouth, then they suddenly dropped straight
down, and hung like the tusks of a walrus, two thin, black points
of hair about six inches long. They gave him the appearance of some
carnivorous animal, fierce, saturnine and dangerous.

Instead of slamming him for his insolence, I pretended not to see him,
and passed in, yet the look stayed with me, and I remembered it at
intervals. He was a wolf, all right, a human wolf--but I was to find
that out later.

"What do you think of our passengers--the coolies?" I asked Jack, the
steward, who sat at my mess next the carpenter, Oleson.

"Watch them, Mr. Garnett, watch them," he warned. "I've seen some
mighty bad Chinks leaving the coast lately. These men belong to
tongs--hatchet men--and if you'll take my word for it you will
find plenty of long, black-barreled guns tucked somewhere in their
dunnage. But the hatchet is their game for those they have a grudge
against--hatchets don't make a noise at night."

"They won't get about the decks in my watch, to use any hatchets, or
guns, either, for that matter," I answered. "I'll tuck them in snug to
bed at eight bells."

"Hatchet's a bad thing at night," put in Oleson. "I'll put a heavy
staple on their door after they turn in."

In my watch below I read ancient magazines until I fell asleep. In my
dreams I saw that stout Chinaman's face with the pointed whiskers and
slant eyes peering down over me. In his hand was a little, thin-bladed
hatchet, like a tomahawk, and as I reached up for him I awoke with a
start, shivering in spite of the heat.

The door of my cabin was closed, and my window, or port, was but half
open, sliding as it did upon sills about five feet above the main deck.

A shadow passed even as I looked up, but when I sprang out of my bunk
and slammed the glass open, there was nothing near the opening.

Just twenty or thirty feet distant forward two of the crew were working
on some gear, and the light was still strong enough to recognize them
as Jim and Bill, of Slade's watch. Then the bells of the dogwatch
struck, and I went on deck, swearing at myself for a nervous fool.

I refused to take a gun which hung over my bunk, hating the idea of
doing such a thing, for guns always spelled trouble in all ships I had
ever been in, and I hated the idea of using one. I went on the poop,
and Miss MacDonald was sitting there with her aunt, chatting with the
old man.

"Keep her steady as she goes--sou'west half west," said Gantline, as I
came up.

"Aye, aye, sir," I answered, and was about to go aft to the wheel, when
the young lady spoke to me.

"I have just asked the captain to allow me to read a chapter from the
Bible to those Chinamen," she said, "and, if you will assist me, we
will gather them close together on the deck there"--pointing to the
main deck. "I can stand upon the edge and see them better. You don't
know whether they can speak or understand English, do you?"

"I think they understand me at times," I ventured, "but I'm a bit
doubtful about the kind of talk you will toss them."

"Toss them? What do you mean?" she asked.

"Why, I mean--well, they understand the kind of English we use at
times--I don't know how to explain--it isn't a written language----"

"I should sincerely hope not," said Miss MacDonald meaningly.

"Yes, but, my dear, it is so expressive--I heard you talking to them
during dinner to-day," interrupted her aunt.

I blushed a little. "Well, then, that's what I mean," I said. "I don't
want to say that I think you are wasting time reading to them--you know
they have a religion of their own--one that antedates ours--they won't
take it right."

"That's a question we won't discuss at present," said Miss MacDonald.
"There are many Christianized Chinamen at home, and they seem to
appreciate it very much."

"Always, if there's a pretty woman to teach them," I snapped.

There was a silence after this. I had been rude, I suppose, but I was
only telling the truth. I went to the break, or edge, of the schooner's
poop, and called the watch, which had been mustering on deck.

"Get the coolies aft to the mast," I ordered.

The men passed the word along, and two or three Chinks who understood
English as well as I did came slouching aft. Gradually about two
dozen stood or congregated near enough to hear, but Yellow Dog and
his slant-eyed chum of the walrus mustaches seemed to decline the
invitation.

"Couldn't you get the large man, their leader, to come also?" asked the
lady.

"Not without dragging him lashed fast," I protested.

"Very well," she said, with just a bit of temper in her voice.

Gantline had gone below, and I was in charge of the deck until supper
was over. The reading would not take long, and the steward was already
bringing the cabin mess aft along the gangway. The young lady read
calmly, and with a peculiarly sweet voice, that attracted the attention
of the men, but not of the coolies.

The Chinks stood about, and some gazed out over the sea, some grinned
openly up at her, with a smile that told of tolerance for an imbecile.
Miss MacDonald, senior, went below to prepare for supper.

Before the girl had finished, Yellow Dog came aft, and gazed at her in
open admiration. He made some remark to his stout friend, and they
both smiled sardonically, but their attitude was not particularly
offensive.

I found some business at the spanker sheet, and when I came forward to
where the girl stood, she was finishing.

"There is only one way to treat heathen, Mr. Garnett," she said, "and
that is to be always kind, universally even-tempered, and gentle with
them. They have had a hard road for many generations, and take to
kindness, as all lower creatures do. They will only get stubborn if you
use hard words and roughness. I know something about their habits, for
I've taught the school at home, where we had twenty pupils, all grown
men."

At this I protested. I confess I was hot.

"If you are kind to them they will think you're afraid of them," I
declared. "If you mule-lick them, hog-strap them, and generally beat
the devil out of them, they'll do as you tell them--not otherwise. I'm
not running a school aboard here, if you please, and while I will give
you any assistance you want or can get, I go on the log right now that
as far as we handle these men, we must beat them and lick them into
submission. There's no other way at sea. It's brutal, but the other way
will turn out more brutal. I'm not responsible for them being in this
ship--but I'll see they get to their port of discharge, all right, if I
have to flay them alive!"

"I think you are perfectly horrible--perfectly, brutal to say such
things," said Miss MacDonald. "Are all seamen brutes? Does the captain
stand for such things aboard here?"

"There is only one way to do with cattle of this sort," I insisted.
"I don't want the job--I'd rather run in a bunch of snakes. But a
ship's bound to be run the way ships are run. There isn't any new way
to run a ship, believe me. It's all been tried out hundreds of years
before you were born. Perhaps some day, when we don't need ships, the
brotherly-love racket will work all right; but not these days."

"I don't believe it, anyhow," said the lady, "and I'm amazed that a man
of apparent intelligence should say such things. You should do unto
others as you would have them do unto you--always."

"Quite so," I assented, somewhat nettled at the idea that a young lady
should give me points on running a ship. "I always do, always do unto
the crew or those coolies the same as I would expect them to do to
me--if I was the same kind of rascal they are--and if our places were
exchanged. There can be only one man in charge of the deck, the watch
officer, and he's responsible for everything that happens. And if I
would be so bold as to give you a bit of advice, I should say to you,
for God's sake don't try any foolishness on those yellow-skins while
they are under my charge. It'll only make trouble, and there'll be
enough of that, anyhow, by the way things look."

"What do you mean?" asked Miss Aline.

"I mean that Yellow Dog, as the skipper calls him, that big Chink, is
not liking ship's discipline already. If you will go near the door
of the alleyway when they open it you will smell the fumes of opium
strong enough to knock you down. They don't pretend to obey orders, and
the company makes us carry them and take care of them like they were
babies. We can't even search them or offer any kind of protest--they'd
refuse to come if the contract was not drawn that way."

"Well, be kind to them, be always lenient with them," said Miss Aline,
in a tone so different, so pleading that I gave up. "Don't yell at them
like I heard you to-day. It isn't dignified, it isn't right--you will
be good to them, now, won't you?--just try it and see if it don't work."

"Ho, well, I'll try to do the best I can, of course," I answered,
thinking of the stout pirate with the hangers. "Yes, I'll try to
be just as kind as I possibly can--of course, I'll promise you
that--that's the skipper's orders, you know."

The steward had already brought the mess things for the cabin, and
the lady went below to join her aunt and the old man--and Slade. The
mate was not standing for my line of talk, as I could see by the way
Miss Aline spoke, and it made me warm to think that a mate of Slade's
attainments should be so mushy as to snicker and grin when I told him
how things stood.

"'Keep solid with the passengers'--that's one of the old rules in the
express steamers, you know--'keep right with the ladies,'" he said,
grinning at me when I mentioned the missionary work the young lady
had undertaken. "And, by the way, lend me a couple of your clean
collars--you won't need them right away, and I do."

"I'll do nothing of the kind," I answered shortly.

"Oh, don't get rattled because I've got the inside route. Don't be mad,
old man, because I've gained the weather of you. All's fair in the
game. And between you and me, if the Chink gets gay with you, bang him
on the nut for fair, and I'll slip in with you--if it's dark. But you
don't want to queer me below. Now, be sane, and come across with those
collars. I'm young and single--and mate, see?"

"Go to the devil!" I answered, but I knew Slade would go to my room,
instead, and nail those white-laundered collars I had kept clean.

That night, when I turned in, I found that, indeed, Slade had been
below, and had rummaged my things about most unkindly, taking my linen.
I turned in with a feeling of resentment at his luck in position, but
I dismissed the feeling quickly as the absurdity of the affair dawned
upon me, for, after all, I was not thinking of women at all, and had no
right to under the present high salary I was drawing.

Rolling into my bunk, I was instantly asleep. In my dreams I saw that
walrus-looking Chink. His long black feelers hung down over me, the
points piercing my vitals like tusks. I gave a yell and awoke!

The lamp was burning dimly, as it always did in my room at night, ready
for the sudden call to the deck, and I could see everything distinctly
the moment I opened my eyes. A face was just leaving the glass of my
window. I sprang out of the bunk, and peered out through the glass. At
that instant there was a heavy rat-tat-tat upon the door, and the voice
of Jim Douglas, of Slade's watch, called to me that it was eight bells,
and time to turn out. I threw open the door.

"Did you look in through my window?" I asked him.

"No, sir; I wouldn't do anything like that, sir," said the seaman.

He was a good-looking young Scotchman of twenty-four, tall and strong,
with an honest face. I knew he was telling the truth.

"That's all," I said, and he went on his way.

I looked at the gun that hung over my shelf at the bunk head. It was
one I took off a dago named Louis, of my watch, and it was a heavy gun,
forty-five caliber, and long in the barrel.

"Perfectly absurd to think of it," I muttered to myself. I pulled on my
coat, and started for the deck, when something, some instinct, told me
to take the weapon.

"Sentiment be hanged!" I said out loud, and tucked the revolver in a
rear pocket. Then I made the deck, and found Slade standing at the
mizzen waiting for me.

"We'll raise the land before morning," said he. "She's been running
like a scared rat all night. Keep a lookout, and when you sight
anything sing out to the old man--he'll be on deck probably, but he's
been acting queer lately, and you better watch him. We'll heave her to
for a pilot, and you know the rest."

"All right," I answered.

The soft, damp air of the trade wind made the decks soaking wet. The
low hum through the rigging added to the murmuring of the side wash.
The creaking of sheet blocks and slight straining of the gear were
the only noises that broke the stillness of the peaceful night. The
schooner was running along rapidly, heeling gently to the wind, and
everything drawing. The rolling motion was slight, for the wind was
strong enough to hold her steady.

The voices of the watch forward sounded above the murmuring, and I
could see the glow of a pipe belonging to some one who disregarded the
ship's discipline sufficiently to smoke while on duty. I took my place
at the mizzen rigging to con the vessel, and stood there silently for a
long time watching the foam rushing past her, now and then gazing far
ahead to see if I could raise the lights of Pearl Harbor. The wind was
almost astern, and the headsails were consequently not doing much work.
I listened to the slatting, and then sang out:

"Haul down the jib topsail and roll it up."

"Aye, aye, sir," came the response, and the men went to the forecastle
head.

Aft at the wheel the shadow of a man holding the spokes was the only
sign of life on deck. I took my place again at the weather rigging, and
waited for the report from forward.

A heavier swell than usual rolled the schooner, and I turned to look
aft. At that instant something whizzed past my ear, and struck with a
chugging sound into the backstay. My ear stung sharply, and something
warm ran down my neck. I saw a form vanish behind the mast, and called
out.

I knew I had been struck, and drew my gun, springing toward the figure,
which dashed silently across the deck as I gained the mast. I fired
at it without hesitation, and the fellow let out a scream, gained the
rail, and plunged over the side.

I was at the rail in an instant, but saw nothing in the foam. A
moment's silence followed, and then a sound of steps and a rising
murmur of voices told me of the alarm.

Gantline was on deck in less time than it takes to tell it, and he
roared out: "What's the matter?"

Slade sprang from the door of the forward cabin, calling out that he
was coming. Men from forward rushed aft. Then, from out of the doors
of the alleyways, a stream of figures poured forth, flowing like a
black tide onto the main deck. A sudden roar of voices followed, and I
recognized the high-pitched tones of our coolies.

"All hands--help! All hands aft--quick!" I yelled, and fired into the
black figures who swarmed up the poop and crowded upon me.

As I fired, I heard the shrill screams of the elder Miss MacDonald,
and then there was indiscriminate firing. I yelled to Slade, and he
answered once. The crowd surged over me, and I was down, with a dozen
panting heathens on top of me. In a minute it was all over. Some one
passed a line about my arms, and, kick as I might, they soon had me
snug and fast. Gantline roared out orders from the wheel, and I heard
the crack of a pistol at rapid intervals. Then a roaring, surging mob
rolled over him--and there was the schooner luffing to under full sail,
her head sheets thrashing and the canvas thundering in the stiff breeze.

They had taken her. We were overpowered, all right. The men forward
stood it out but a moment longer, and surrendered.

When I could see again I noticed the giant form of Yellow Dog standing
near the wheel, and two of his men at the wheel spokes. He sang out
orders in his musical bass voice, and the sheets were quickly trimmed
in. The schooner now headed well up with the wind abeam, and pointed
away across the Pacific, far to the northward of Hawaii. Yellow Dog had
taken her easily.

I was hauled below, and tossed into the forward cabin. Here I found
Slade lashed fast, like myself. He was hurt by a bullet that had torn
his thigh, and was bleeding. Upon a transom lay Gantline, trussed from
head to foot in line, and the old skipper was swearing fiercely at the
ill fortune that had overtaken his ship.

I noticed a few Chinks standing near the door of the after cabin, and
they looked at us casually, seeming to regard us not at all. Then I
heard the soft voice of Miss Aline pleading with Yellow Dog. But of
course she might have pleaded with the sea with as much effect. Then
the sounds died away, and we lay there, waiting for daylight and what
might follow.

Daylight came, and the schooner still held her way under all sail
except the jib topsail that I had hauled down before the fracas. She
now lay at a sharp angle, and felt the trade wind upon her starboard
beam.

Yellow Dog came into the forward cabin. He stopped a moment near me,
then kicked me savagely, muttering strange sounds in his own language.
I told him fluently in good seaman's English just what I thought of
him, and if he did not understand me he was something dense, for I've
had every kind of human under the sun on my ship's deck, and I have so
far failed to notice any who could not understand me when I let off a
few pieces of literature or oratory.

Yellow Dog seemed rather pleased than otherwise, for he called his man,
the walrus-mustached one, and grinned while they held a confab. I took
it that something choice would be handed me within a very short time.

When I had a chance to ask the skipper, he told us we were within forty
miles of Pearl Harbor. From the way we nosed into the breeze, the
schooner was now heading northwest across the ocean, giving the harbor
a wide berth.

"What'll they do?" I asked him.

"Sink her, with us aboard--take the ten thousand dollars in the safe,
and make a get-away with it. They'll turn up ashore in some deserted
place, and that'll be about all. Then they'll divide the swag,
separate, and Yellow Dog will go his way--probably back to China. It's
not much money when you think of it for a white man, but it's a whole
heap for a Chink."

After the day had well advanced we heard noises on deck. The foresail
was lowered, or, rather, let go by the run, the noise of tearing gear
sounding plainly. Topsails, staysails, and everything forward except
the jib were cut away. Then the spanker was lowered, and left threshing
about, half up, with the sheet hauled amidships. The jib was hauled
to the mast, and the schooner lay hove to in the trade swell, riding
easily upon the sea, and remaining very steady.

We heard them getting out the boats, and there was much noise from aft
where the safe was fast to the deck in the captain's cabin. Finally a
terrific explosion took place there, and after that the noises died
away.

"Blew it," said Slade.

A smell of smoke now began to be apparently in the confined air of the
cabin.

"Good Lord! Are they going to fire us?" asked the mate.

"Safest way, I suppose. Knock a hole in her bottom first, set her on
fire, and then get out," I said.

"But the girl?" asked Slade.

"Oh, Yellow Dog will take care of her--probably take her along with him
in the boats."

"Not if I know it. Man, do you know what that means?" he panted,
straining at his wrist lashings.

"Well, it's a mighty bad outlook, but if you can stop it, sing out;
I'll help," I said.

The smoke grew more dense in the confined space. The noise of hoisting
gear died away, and the shouts of men from a distance told that they
already had the small boats over, and were alongside.

Slade strained away at his lines, and I did, also, but we were fast.
Gantline muttered on the transom, and began to choke with the smoke.
Suddenly a form burst into the room. It was Oleson, the carpenter. He
slashed at our lashings with a heavy knife, and in a moment we were
free.

We dragged ourselves out on deck, crawling to keep below the rail, so
that we could not be seen from the small boats. Two forms lay right in
front of a door--two of our men who had been killed. Not a sign of a
wounded Chink, or dead one, either. They had taken them along if there
were any.

"I cut loose," said Oleson; "rubbed the lashings on a broken bottle
they left on deck near me. They've knocked a few holes in her, and
it's up to us to stop them up before the schooner sinks. She's on
fire forward--whole barrel of oil poured over her decks and lit up
before----"

"Looks like they have her either way, then," said Gantline. "But we'll
try the fire first, and take a chance at her settling under us."

I peeped over the rail and saw the boats--three of them--about a
mile distant. Then Slade and I ran below aft. The two passengers had
apparently gone with them, and the cabin was empty. Gantline, with
Oleson and six men left alive aboard, fought the fire, and we joined
them.

Half an hour's work and we had the fire out, but it had played the
mischief with the running gear, having burned up plenty of line that
lay on the deck. Oleson and Slade went below forward, while Gantline
and I went after to find where they had knocked holes in her bottom.

The sound of rushing water told us the position of the leak almost
before we reached the lower deck. They had not done much of a job,
having cut squarely into her just below the water line, trusting to the
fire to finish their work for them.

Calling all hands, we jammed a mattress into the hole, and then passed
a tarpaulin down on the outside. Oleson spiked planks over the wad,
and we had a fair stopper on the place. Then we set to work to get the
canvas on her.

Yellow Dog, finding that the schooner was not burning quickly, put back
in his boat to see what the trouble was. We were then at the gear, and
he soon saw us. His men sent the boat along with a will, and they drew
close aboard in a few minutes.

We were now without arms, and he seemed to be satisfied that he would
get us without trouble. It was blowing fresh, and the schooner was
drifting bodily to leeward.

We crammed the oil-soaked stuff from her decks into the donkey boiler,
and as the fire was already burning, and steam was almost up, we
waited, while some of us hoisted the headsails and swung her head off
before the wind. The mizzen was swayed up, and in a few minutes the
schooner was under good headway, sliding along at four or five knots,
and keeping the boat at a distance.

"Now, then, my hearty, we'll soon fix you," said Gantline.

Between moments of desperate work we had a chance to see that the other
boats were also coming back after us. At the present rate we were
holding our own, and Yellow Dog stood no chance to catch us, but he
kept on, and managed to get within a couple of hundred yards.

From here he opened fire upon us with the heavy six-shooters, and we
heard the spat of the lead in the canvas, but for ourselves we kept
below the rail, and the power of a revolver was not enough to bother us
exceedingly.

Soon Oleson announced that we could put the halyards to the winches,
and we sent the foresail and mainsail up in no time. Then we set the
spanker and had all the lower canvas on her.

The schooner lay well over under the pressure, and we sent her along a
good ten knots, while we cleared up the gear and made things shipshape.
The boats were soon black specks in the sunshine.

"Now, then, let's get to work on that yellow boy right," said the old
man.

"No, don't let him get too far away from us," said Slade. "The two
ladies are in that boat with the big Chink, and we better attend to it
first."

We hauled our wind and began reaching back, the boat with Yellow Dog
being kept right under the jibboom end.

"I reckon I'll take the wheel and you go forward, Mr. Garnett," said
Gantline.

"Will you run him down?" I asked.

"Without any mistake at all--if you'll give me the course right when he
gets in close," said the captain.

"But the ladies, the passengers?" said Slade.

"We'll do the best we can for them--just as well to get killed that way
as to get away with those fellows, isn't it?"

The men took to the idea at once, and we grouped close under the
shelter of the windlass, watching the schooner run. She was going a
full ten, and rising and falling with a rhythmic motion, her side,
where the patch was, being almost clear of the sea.

Yellow Dog saw us, and knew what we intended to do. He swung his boat
around and pulled dead into the wind's eye, knowing that if we missed
him we would not get a chance to strike again until we beat well up
to windward of him. He would make it warm on deck as we came close,
and Gantline took the precaution to place a few boards against the
binnacle, so that he could crouch behind them when the firing began. I
was to wave my hand which way he should steer, and he was to keep me in
sight readily.

We drew rapidly up to the boat. Yellow Dog stood up in the stern, and
held a long, black-barreled revolver in his hand.

We crouched lower, and the schooner bore down upon the boat. I waved
my hand to starboard, and Gantline gave her a few spokes. Yellow Dog
backed water, and the boat would have gone clear of the cutwater, but
at that instant a heavier puff of wind heeled the schooner over, and
she luffed to a trifle, her cutwater rising upon a swell.

Then, with the downward plunge, she shored through the small boat,
striking it fairly amidships.

I was so taken up with the affair that I poked my head too far over the
rail, and a bullet ripped my cheek open, knocking me head over heels
with the shock.

I scrambled to my feet, furious with the pain and excitement. The
fragments of the small boat drifted alongside, the after part going to
leeward, and dragging along the channels. I saw Slade spring upon the
rail for an instant, and then plunge overboard.

Holding my bleeding face with one hand, I ran to the forechannels, and
saw Yellow Dog grasp the chains as they washed past. He had a mighty
grip, and that hand hold of his was a wonder. He drew himself into the
chains, and, without waiting, clambered up and over the rail, springing
to the deck right in front of me as I backed away.

Oleson saw him coming, and so did a seaman named Wales. The three of us
closed on him, and dragged him down, and we rolled in the lee scuppers,
a fighting, snarling pile of humanity, while Gantline let the wheel go,
and ran to help us.

Yellow Dog tossed the three of us off with the ease of a man throwing
aside children, and would have taken charge in another moment, but
Gantline, running up behind him with a handspike, swung the bar down
with full force upon that little skullcap, and the giant Chink
stretched out harmless. We had him trussed before the schooner had
stopped her headway into the breeze.

Then we ran to the side, and looked for Slade. He was swimming easily
about a hundred yards astern, holding the form of Miss Aline with one
hand, and keeping her head clear of the water. All about were the forms
of swimming Chinamen.

Quickly backing the headsails, we sent the schooner astern, drifting
down upon the mate. I made a line fast to a life buoy, and flung it far
out. After what seemed a long time, we finally had the mate fast to it,
and were hauling him in. Soon he was taken aboard, and Miss MacDonald
was carried below. Then we went to work trying to pick up the Chinks.

Many of these refused to come aboard, preferring to die in the sea.
Some we caught and dragged up forcibly. We caught most of them, and
then hauled our wind for the two boats that were now almost out of
sight.

Within a couple of hours we had the first alongside, and she
surrendered. In it was Miss Aline's aunt, and she was passed below
insensible. The other boat took longer to get, but we finally got
her alongside, and the men out of her. Forty-seven Chinks stood the
muster. We had lost ten of them and two of our men in the fracas. Miss
MacDonald came out of her faint, and from her room, where she had
locked herself. She fell into the arms of her niece.

"Oh, the brave men, those romantic sailors, those heroes!" she cried,
in an ecstasy of joy, and she gave me a look worth millions.

"Hush!" said Miss Aline. "Perhaps if those heroes had been a little
more gentle there would have been no trouble--but I am glad we are
saved. Mr. Slade risked his life for me."

The Kanaka cook crawled from the lower hold, where he had hidden at
the first outcry, and the stewardess came from the lazaret. We came
into Honolulu that evening with the police flag flying, and turned the
big Chink over to the authorities for treatment. His lieutenant of the
walrus mustaches was missing.

Miss Aline came on deck to look around. She saw Slade, and went to him.
What she said to him was none of my business, but Slade was a good man
and a good mate. Afterward she came to the mizzen where I stood like a
bandaged soldier.

"I suppose you'll not make the rest of the voyage with us?" I asked.

"Why not?" she asked.

"Oh--er--I don't know; maybe you don't care so much for the heathen.
Brotherly love and kindness--fine theory, all right, but we're not just
ready to put it in practice--willing to wait, you know, until it comes
our way--perhaps a bit afraid----"

"You are very much mistaken, sir," she broke in. "You will find out
your error, too, I think, before we get through. I am firmly convinced
that your own actions with that poor heathen are as much at fault as
his, and that if you had not treated him so roughly he would never have
done what he did."

I grinned. I couldn't help it. Slade was winking at me from the door
of the forward house. Oh, well, here was a good woman gone wrong in
her theories, and I would not be insolent enough to disagree with her.
I let it go at that. I was willing to wait until she had finished the
voyage--for Slade's sake. He was a sly dog, that Slade.

We found about two thousand dollars of the money taken among the men
captured. The rest was a total loss, and Gantline bemoaned his fate, as
it fell upon him to a certain extent.

We cleared, leaving the big Chinaman to stand trial with two others as
accessories, and the police absolved me absolutely from all blame in
the matter.



PART II


"No loafing around the ship," I called to the little yellow chap who
was sitting near the spring line which held the schooner _Tanner_ to
the wharf at Honolulu. The man paid not the slightest attention to me.

"Hey, there, sonny! Move out! Beat it; make a getaway, you savvy?" I
bawled in a louder tone.

Then he arose, and instead of a young fellow I was amazed to find him
at least ten years older than myself--and I had been a ship's officer
some years. He walked slowly to the vessel's side, and gazed up at me
where I stood near the break of the poop, holding to a backstay.

She was a modern, short-poop schooner. The sallow little man was not
a Chinaman, nor of Kanaka breed, but a full-blooded Japanese. He was
stout, strong, yellow of skin, and his black hair was too long for his
country's custom, sticking out from under the rim of a brown derby that
had seen its best days. His eyes were slitlike, keen little eyes, but
there was nothing repulsive in them. They attracted me. For one thing,
he had an open frankness, an honest and fearless look, and his face was
sad.

"What you doin' on the dock, Togi?" I asked, eying him humorously.

"If your august presence will listen, I'll tell you," he answered
easily.

"Sure, Michael, let her go, and don't mind my gigantic--er--august
self," I sniggered.

"In the first place," he said, "I'm not sonny, being, if your honorable
temper allows, a man of forty. If fine schooner says so, I go with
you as far as Tokyo. There I am the humble cousin of the Honorable
Baron Komuri, son of a Samurai, under the former emperor. I should
like indeed to sail with you, and will----" Here he stopped a moment,
hesitating.

"Go on, king, old man; don't let anything stop you from telling your
yarn. Sing it out, and I'll listen if it breaks a bone."

"No, no; not king, old man; just Mister Komuri--if your presence allows
me to correct. Your humble servant is but a plain man. Better be plain
man than dead lion, as your excellent books say. I accept plain man,
and go that way if so ship says."

"We are not going to Tokyo, but if you see the skipper he'll take you
clear to Manila for a hundred or two yen. You savvy him yen. Must pay,
you know."

"Ah, that is of what I wish to tell your honorable self. Allow me to
make myself so humble to tell I have not the yen you ask. I have not
anything----"

"Nothing doing, kiddo; on your way," I said remorselessly.

"But I sit on dock end waiting----"

"Waiting for what?"

"Waiting for two hundred yen to fly up and knock me dead. I wait and no
yen fly up to strike me on the cranium. Now I go with fine ship, and
work like plain man."

"You have a sense of humor, king," said I, "and sink me if I don't try
to get you a job wrastling the dishes aft. How about it? Can you sling
the pots--are you a number-one pot-wrastler?"

"I never wrastle; a little jujutsu sometimes when necessary for take
care, but I work at anything your august self tells. If honorable
commander tells me to wrastle pots, I try him so. I pretty good with
sword or short knife----"

"Not so fast, king; this isn't a man-of-war; no fighting here. All the
fracasing done here is done by my august self and the other mate, Mr.
Bill Slade, both, as you say, honorable men, and some hustlers when it
comes right down to handling cloth in a blow. What I want--honorable
ship wants--is a man to give the eats aft--savvy? Bring in the hash
from honorable cook in galley--see? Set dish on table, wash dish off
table. You know."

"But I am soldier--son of Samurai. I do not like dishwork; but if no
other way, I do mean work to get to Tokyo," he said sadly.

"You're on," I hastened to say. "You're on, king, but in the future you
will be known as Koko. Savvy?"

"As Mister Komuri," he interrupted, with a look from those slits of
eyes that called my attention.

"No misters aboard here but my honorable self and mate. Rules of
honorable ship, you know. Sorry, but august skipper has discipline,
and you are soldier. You savvy? We'll compromise on Komuri. How's
that--just plain Komuri, steward, hash boy, hey?"

"Your august self, yes; to common men, Mister Komuri, yes."

"Get aboard, then," I said. "Go forward to the galley. The cook--that
big Kanaka there--he'll give you the line. In the meantime I'll square
it with the boss."

Mister Komuri sprang over the rail, and made his way as directed. It
was easy to see that he had been in ships before, as what Japanese
hasn't, since they are a race of seamen.

Our new member took hold without further orders, and I saw him not
again until the land was well astern, and we were on our way to Guam,
with forty-seven chink coolies below, and two lady passengers aft.

This was the second part of our run, the first being from Frisco, where
we had shipped the coolies under the leadership of their gigantic
foreman, who had tried to take the ship and landed in jail for his
pains. The few thousand dollars we now carried in the safe aft was not
worthy of anxiety in regard to protection. Our voyage promised to be
uneventful.

Among our crew were two new hands we had shipped at Honolulu to
help run the ship, also to take care of the Chinese we carried. Our
experience with the coolies had taught us that being short-handed was
not either good or safe. Our arms were now ready, being, as they were,
riot guns full of buckshot, and reliable six-shooters of heavy caliber.
This going out with nearly half a hundred Chinks with but three men in
a watch was all right if the Chinks were good, but we had found they
were not to be trusted. With the leader of the uprising in jail for
murder, and his lieutenant killed, we hoped for an easy life.

We now had four men in watch, with the engineer for the ever-ready
steam winch bunking in his engine house with banked fires and enough
steam always ready to handle line. We were really carrying a full crew
for a schooner, and the expense of the engine was extra, there being
now enough men to handle her canvas easily without the aid of the
winches.

One of the new men was a strange-looking fellow, who was neither dago
nor Dutchman. Just what he was I don't know, except that he was crafty,
watchful, and dodged all work possible. He had a way of looking at you
with eyes that seemed to fathom your inmost thoughts, an affected way
of appearing to understand, and his peculiar silences gave support to
the look. It deceived the old man.

It deceived both Slade and myself at first, but afterward we grew more
discerning, peered deeper into his meaning, and saw--nothing. He was
just a petty, crafty sea lawyer who was looking for trouble to carry
back to the coast, where they love to get masters and mates mixed up in
courts for some violation of the shipping articles.

This fellow's name was Dodd--Alfred Dodd--and he was called Alf by his
shipmates. Komuri seemed to sense danger the moment he jostled the
seaman in the gangway the first day out. I heard the row from the deck,
and it was short.

"Hey, Jack," yelled Dodd to the regular steward we had signed on in
Frisco, "Jack, you seem to belong to the nobility now--can't hand a man
a pot of coffee during the mid-watch no more, hey? Let the king do it."

"Not king; just plain Mister Komuri," purred our little helper, as he
grinned.

"What's the matter?" asked Dodd. "Don't four-flush at your title, hey?"

"Aw, give us rest," said Jack, who was good-natured and liked the
little yellow man, for Komuri did all his work now, and there was no
comeback.

"I don't know if honorable sailor means wrong by four-flush," said
Komuri quietly, "but if he does the finger of Fate will point at him."

"Wow! Fate will point at me! What der you think o' that?" sneered Dodd.
"Let's hope you ain't Fate, sonny, or I might p'int my own fair hand at
you in return."

"If honorable seaman will step out to the fore end of ship I'll show
him just what a son of Samurai means. It will take short time."

"Sure, king; I'll go you that explanation, all right. Come right along
while the watch are getting their whack. No one will notice us."

Komuri jumped like a tiger without warning. He sprang upon the fellow,
and had a strangle hold of his wrist, and twisted over his neck until
I thought he was getting killed. I had to stop laughing to run up and
stop the fracas. Dodd was sweating with pain, and cursing furiously,
absolutely helpless. It was so quickly done that I wondered at it. Of
course, a strong man might grab the small fellow and jerk him out of
his shoes, but that was not Dodd.

"Drop it!" I commanded, and the second steward let go at once, smiling.
"Now, get below, and quit this fooling," said I, and the sailor waited
for no further orders. "You can show me some of your tricks, you
Japanese juggler, when we have more time," I said to the little man.
"You interest me considerable. Get to the hash, and don't waste time
with a fool like that."

Of course, it might be expected that a man of Komuri's parts would be
gallant, for it seems always the case when a man is able and unafraid
that he is sure to love with more passion than discernment. Komuri was
not an exception.

Not being at the first table with the passengers, I had small
opportunity to see how he treated Miss MacDonald, but from what Slade
told me I was concerned. The small chap was always in attendance upon
the ladies when they were on deck. He was politeness itself, and he
busied himself with all kinds of little efforts to make them more
comfortable than they were.

"If honorable ladies will allow, I fix the rugs in chairs," he would
say, and although the weather was tropical, a rug made a softer seat
when they took the air on deck, which they did nearly all daytime while
we ran our westing down beneath the tropic of Cancer.

With a good full month or six weeks before us, and a fair wind on the
starboard quarter all the time, we had a stretch of water to cross
that put one in mind of steamers. The ship ran steadily day and night
at about from eight to ten knots an hour. We seldom touched a sheet
or halyard except to set it up, and the gentle heeling with the trade
swell made the voyage seem like a yachting trip.

Komuri had much time to devote to the comfort of the ladies, and the
elder one seemed to like him very much indeed. He told them stories of
the warlike Samurai, and honor and self-respect stood out plainly in
them all. It was not a bad thing, except that he always seemed to be
something of a hero, and no steward either second or first should be
such a thing where there are seamen around waiting for the job.

"I have always believed that you heathen were very able people," said
Miss Aline, "and if you were treated properly you would be just as
gentle and tractable as the European races."

"Heathen," said Komuri calmly, "are those who do not accept your own
honorable views. Who knows which is right? It is a word we never use in
Japan."

She looked at him a moment, and said: "You are quite incorrigible. I
hope you are not really bad, after all."

"Honorable lady must see by how I do--not how I talk; she judge humble
self most true. Her heart right," said the Japanese, which I thought
was going some for a second steward, especially when I remembered how
Slade stood, or wished to stand, in a certain quarter. I thought it
best to let the humble steward see he was going far enough.

"Say, king, old man," I interrupted, "Jack wants you to get busy with
the potatoes for dinner. He's waiting for the peelings."

Komuri nodded to me respectfully.

"At once, august mate, I go," he said, and went.

"Quite a superior steward, that Japanese boy," said the elder lady to
me.

"Oh, he's a wonder, all right," I assented; "but his place is in the
galley, and not on the quarter-deck--if I may be allowed to speak of
it."

"And I do hope you will treat him kindly--not as you did the Chinese
man who went bad," said Miss Aline.

"No fear of it--not the king. He wouldn't stand roughing--and don't
call for it. You see, while he goes with the Chinks altogether too much
for their own good, and talks altogether too much for his own, he is
not a Chinaman. Oh, no; he is far removed from the coolie Chinks, as
far as the skipper himself. He's just a plain little fighting man, that
a good-sized mate like myself could bite in two; but I know him--just
what he'd do."

"Why, what?" asked Miss Aline.

"I'd hate to tell you," I grinned.

"You may be a good seaman, but you're somewhat stupid," said Miss
Aline, and I laughed outright at her humor.

"What do you think of this fine weather?" asked her aunt to change the
conversation.

"It's good as it goes, but it's the hurricane season, and we can't
count on it lasting all the way, you know," I said. "Maybe we'll hook
right into a typhoon before----"

"Oh, you always want something rough, something bad," put in Miss
Aline. "I never saw such a man. Why do you always look for trouble?
Don't you find it often enough without hunting it always?"

"Sure as eggs," I said; "but I'm only telling you what I believe, what
the signs show me. I'm not trying to frighten you at all."

"I think you are perfectly horrid," said the young woman.

"I hope I'm wrong, at least," I answered. But as I scanned the perfect
sky I felt that indeed I was trespassing upon the feelings of the
passengers too much, in spite of the fact that I had a mercury glass to
observe in Slade's room.

The coolies came on deck in the daytime now, and sat in rows along the
waterways, eating their rice and chewing some sort of stuff to fill in
the interval between meals. They chattered a lot, and appeared not to
feel abashed at their former behavior.

At these times the old man would come on deck--it being about the time
he'd take the noon sight--and gaze down at them dismally. He hated
Chinks, and their presence in his ship was more than he could get used
to.

"What good are Chinks, anyway?" he would say.

"Somebody's got to do the work in hot countries, and you can't always
get the blacks. They are just like mules, carabao buffalo, or jacks.
They'll work on ten cents a day and get fat; they don't know any
better," I'd tell him.

But he would shake his old, shaggy head and mutter:

"What good, what good, anyway?"

As a matter of fact, they did no harm aboard besides befouling the air
of the alleyways with their eternal opium smoking. They had nothing at
all to do with the men forward, and the only person who appeared to
be able to hold intercourse with them was Komuri. He understood their
lingo or singsong way of telling it, and he would talk to them for
hours during the evening after the supper things were washed up, and
Jack, the steward, had turned in.

I was a bit suspicious of this, for I don't like men of the after
guard to be intimate with either the crew or the passengers. It starts
something before long, and the voyage across the Pacific is a long one
if nothing else. Slade commented upon the Japanese often, and he rather
disliked our little second steward for his untiring efforts in behalf
of the ladies. Slade was a jealous man, although he was a seaman from
clew to earing, and his attentions to Miss Aline were more and more
marked as the schooner sped on her course.

"Why shouldn't I get married?" he used to say to me when we had a
chance to be together, which was seldom enough. "Why shouldn't I get a
wife, and take up the simple life of the farmer? I've been through all
the hardness of seagoing, and I'm tired of it. What is a man, after
all, if he sticks to it? He gets to be a skipper of some blamed hooker
that'll make him a couple of thousand a year when he is too old to
enjoy spending it. Then he loses her, maybe, and then where is he? A
fit subject, for the sailors' home. No, I'm going to marry that woman
and get a berth ashore. You watch me."

Of course, I encouraged him all I thought necessary. I even grinned
at times when I thought of the picture he would make as a husband of a
woman like Miss Aline MacDonald--after he had been on the beach for a
year or two.

And so we ran our westing down, and drew near the one hundred and
sixtieth meridian to the northward of the Marshall Islands. Here the
trade failed us for a wonder, and began to get fitful and squally. At
times it would come with a rush, and then die away altogether, the
squalls being accompanied by rain. A mighty swell began to heave in
from the southeast diagonally across the trade swell, and it lumped up
some, heaving the schooner over and rolling her down to her bearings
when the wind failed to hold her.

The glass fell, and the air became sultry, the sun glowing like a ball
of red copper in the hazy atmosphere. The squall clouds grew heavier,
and when the sun shone between them it sent long rays, fan-shaped,
through the mist.

The old man came on deck, and viewed the sea with a critical eye. It
was nearly eight bells, and Slade was on watch. I came out and watched
them take the sun for meridian altitude--both of them sometimes did
this together--and when the bells struck off, Slade came down from the
poop, and joined me on the main deck.

"What'd you make of the weather, old man?" he asked.

"Looks dirty to me; glass falling and the hot squalls coming from that
quarter--whew! Look at it!"

As I spoke a huge roller swept under the schooner, lifting her skyward,
and then dropping her slowly down the side. It was an enormous sea--a
hill of water full forty feet high--and it rolled like a living
mountain, a mighty mass that made nothing of the trade swell, and told
of some tremendous power behind it.

The sea ran swiftly, with a quick, live feeling. As sure as death there
was awful wind somewhere in that peaceful ocean, driving with immense
force and resistless power.

Slade looked askance at the topsails. As he gazed the old man sang out
from aft:

"Clew up the topsails and roll them up snug. Put extra gaskets on them!"

Then came the main and mizzen along with the outer jibs, and by the
time the watch had their dinner we were close reefing the mizzen and
taking the bonnet out of the foresail.

Miss Aline was on deck, as the sudden motion was so extraordinary that
to remain below meant to be seasick. Her aunt came up from a hasty
meal, and clung to the poop rail and watched us work.

"Oh, those gallant men!" she murmured to her niece. "See how they climb
like monkeys upon that awful sail. Romantic heroes! Yes, Aline, they
are wonderful, and the way that officer talks to them is a revelation.
Just hear him."

I was at that moment holding forth to a couple of squareheads upon
the evident virtues of passing reef points properly, and I may have
slipped my etiquette a bit, for my language was such that I was almost
persuaded to follow it with action. But I had heard enough. I stopped.
The men went on lazily, growling at the work.

"Reefing a ship in a dead calm," grumbled one, "ten minutes for the
eats, and then we'll loose these here p'ints out ag'in, and take the
sail to the winch."

I was too angry to hear more. Here was an old lady putting me queer
with men who ought to know better than talk when they were expected to
hurry. At least they should not criticize their officers.

"Get along, you Scandaluvian sons of Haman! Get those points in lively,
or the squall'll break before you know it--an' I'll be the rain,
thunder, and lightning!" I roared.

I refused to look at the two passengers, and went to the forward end
of the poop, and looked down at the Chinks, who were seated in the
waterways eating their rice and long-lick--molasses. Just what to do
with these fellows seemed to me a problem. We could hardly lock them in
now, and if trouble came along quickly they would be in it, right in
the middle.

The old man came from below, and gazed solemnly across the misty sea,
and I went to him.

"How about it?" he asked. "Hadn't we better house them Chinks now,
before it's too late? They'll die of suffocation in those alleyways
with the ports shut fast--I suppose you shut the ports in, didn't you?"
he said.

"Sure. Everything is snugged in below. Komuri saw to it. He knows how
to talk to the Mongolians--tell them they must keep the ports shut.
But I don't like leaving them on deck, even if it is hot enough to
roast potatoes on the deck planks. How's the glass, sir?"

"Bottom dropped out of it somehow; mercury concave and 'way down.
There's some unusual disturbance knocking about this sea. There's
trouble ahead--typhoon season, you know. Nothing but wind moves that
awful swell. Look at that!"

A hill of water rolled majestically onward, catching us under the
counter, and sending us along its great, smooth crest, then dropping us
again as we had hardly steering way under the short canvas.

"I'd like to know which way it's coming--lay our course to drift out
of it, or run, but who knows--who knows before it strikes? I wish you
would see to the gear forward. I don't want things to get loose. And
take charge. No, sir; don't let anything out of the way happen while
you're on deck."

I saw the old man was getting nervous. The low pressure and the
sultriness were telling on him. He knew what was coming well enough,
and fretted under it. It was hard waiting, even for an old seaman like
himself. Slade came on deck, and puffed carelessly at his pipe, gazing
about, and then going aft to chat with the ladies. He was always ready
to cheer them up. Nothing would happen--positively nothing. There
was no use of their getting nervous at the heavy swell. It had often
happened before--a heavy swell and no wind, 'way out here in the middle
of the Pacific. No telling where the storm might be, but, of course it
wouldn't be near us--oh, no.

Oleson came aft to me.

"Shall I lock in the Chinks?" he asked.

"Yes," I answered. "Lock 'em up, put a padlock on both doors, and see
that they don't get loose again until this is over."

Oleson went to Komuri. The Jap listened to him, and then repeated the
order, passing the word like a seaman should, without comment. The
Chinks followed him into their quarters in the alleyways, and Oleson
locked the doors on the outside, putting extra padlocks on them. The
alleyways were upon the main deck, and shut off from the lazaret by a
bulkhead.

"If honorable mate will let me open those ports inside, Chinese men
will be able to breathe better--air very hot in there," said Komuri.

"All right, king; go ahead. And if she lists over and drowns them like
rats in a trap you'll be the man to loose them--see?" I warned him.

"I'll take care them, me," said Komuri. "If honorable ship, she turns
over, me, Komuri, will see to ports. Very hot inside there."

I turned away and watched the horizon. The haze was thickening, and the
squalls were beginning to come with more force than before. A sudden
spurt of wind sang hoarsely in the rigging, and a drift of spray flew
upward.

The men were still at work making things snug when I heard a murmuring,
a moaning, vast, filling the air, then dying away again. It was all
about us, seemingly upon all sides. Then again I heard a harplike note
of great volume. The horizon disappeared in the southeast, and the
blue-steel bank of vapor shut off the sunlight. It grew dark and gloomy.

"She's coming along all right in a few minutes," said Slade, who came
near to me and passed on to his room. He came on deck in a couple of
minutes, with an oilskin coat buttoned fast about him, and he sweltered
in its heat. I still stood at the weather rigging.

"Go get your rain clothes on," he said, coming to relieve me.

"Nix! Let her go as it is--better wet with salt water than sweat," I
replied.

The skipper came forward. He suggested that the two passengers go
below, and Jack, the steward, with Komuri to assist him, managed to get
them below without protest, although it was something like ninety-six
or seven in that saloon.

A white streak spread upon the sea. The squall struck, snoring away
with a vigor that told of more coming. The spumedrift flew over us.
Then another, and another furious blast of wind bore down upon the
schooner, and she lay slowly over until her rail was submerged.

In five minutes the hurricane was roaring over us, and the _Tanner_ lay
upon her beam ends while we struggled with the mizzen, and held the
wheel hard up to throw her off, the weight of the wind holding her down
with a giant hand.

Yelling and struggling, all hands now tried to get that mizzen in. It
was a waste of time. I saw the skipper clinging to the boom and using
his knife upon the canvas, and did likewise. With a thundering roar the
sail split, torn to ribbons. We could not make ourselves heard in the
chaos of sound, but waved frantically our orders and helped as only
good seamen can.

But the _Tanner_ refused to go off. She lay flat out with her
cross-trees in the lift of the sea, and she hung there. The
forestaysail burst with a crack that we heard aft, and vanished as if
it had been snow in a jet of steam. The bonneted foresail held with the
wind roaring over the top of it, spilling away, but still keeping full
enough to keep from slatting and bursting. It was the heaviest canvas
and brand new, and all the time squall after squall bore upon the
straining ship, roaring, screaming with the blast of a gun as the puffs
came and went.

That wind was like a wall of something solid. To move in it was
enough to tax the strength. It pressed one against what was to
leeward--pressed him, held him and bore upon him like a weight of
something solid. To let go meant to run the risk of being blown bodily
away into the sea.

We clung along the weather rail, and hung on with both hands, watching
the white smother fore and aft, but unable to look to windward for an
instant against the blast. The outfly and uproar was so tremendous that
all sounds were lost in it. I found myself near Slade and the old man,
all three clinging to the rail, and gasping for breath. The skipper's
gray head shone bare in the blast, and the white foam flecked it, and
dripped from his beard, his ruddy cheeks glowing red in contrast. His
teeth were set, and he was just holding on.

For a long time we three hung there, and did nothing but try to survive
the fury of that hurricane. The forward part of the schooner was
blotted out, and I just remember that to leeward, where I could look,
the surge boiled and foamed clear up to the hatch coamings.

I thought of the women below, and knew they were safe for the time
being. Then I remembered the starboard alleyway, and the ports that
Komuri had left open to give the Chinks air. The alleyway was now
completely submerged; the ports far below the surface of the sea, the
Chinamen were caught there like rats in a trap.

The narrow space must even now be filling up, and I thought of the poor
coolies struggling against that door the carpenter had so securely
locked and fastened upon them. They could never break it open, for upon
it we had placed our safety against another uprising, and the double,
two-inch planks bolted crossways would stand more than the weight of
the crowd that would be able to surge against it. The alleyway could
fill entirely without any water getting below.

I grabbed Slade by the arm, and pointed at the lower deck.

"The Chinks--below--can't get out!" I roared against the hurricane.

Slade grinned a sickly grin and nodded. Then he ducked his head
against the wind and bellowed back:

"Can't help it--can't go there--sure death!"

I fancied I could hear the outcries of the imprisoned men, but the
deep, bass undertone of the hurricane roared away overhead and swept
away the impression.

It was sickening to think of it. Fully twenty men were in that
alleyway, and the four eight-inch ports were letting in four streams of
sea water, for the Chinamen would not know enough to jam them full of
clothes or anything they could get hold of, being little better than
animals in point of intelligence.

If the schooner would only pay off she would right herself and let the
openings come above the sea level; but she hung there dead, beaten down
by a blast so terrific that it seemed like a solid wall of something
heavy tearing upon her and crushing her life out. It took the breath
away, and I found myself gasping, trying to get air to breathe, sucking
in the flying drift and spray, and choking, holding one hand over my
nose and mouth to keep from actually drowning in the smother.

It seemed as if we had already been hove down a full hour, and I was
tiring. The schooner held doggedly broadside in the trough of the
sea, which was now appalling in height, and was breaking solidly over
her high rail and upturned side. We could not last much longer in the
dangerous position, and I began to believe we were lost. Our hatches
were closed, and no water could get below unless something gave way,
but it was certain something would go before long under that strain.

I looked hopelessly at the man at the wheel, who had passed a lashing
upon his waist, and was straddling the shaft, clinging to the spokes
with desperation. I wondered if he still held the wheel hard up, but
knew that in her present knocked-down state it would make little
difference, for she would not steer without some headsail to swing her
out and off that mighty sea.

I crawled along the rail, fighting my way hand over hand, passing the
skipper and gaining the edge of the poop. I yelled to Douglas, who was
the man straddling the wheel shaft, but he only shook his head and
ducked from the squalls.

While I bawled for him to tell me what helm she carried, I was aware
of a figure crawling from the companionway to the after cabin. It
came creeping up just under me, up the almost perpendicular deck, and
it looked like a big monkey until it came right into me, and then I
recognized Komuri, our little steward.

Komuri was yellow, a pasty yellow, and his wrinkled face looked old and
haggard. He was only partly dressed, and he clawed the rail frantically
for a hand hold. He looked the worst-scared Jap I had ever seen or
dreamed of. He climbed close to me.

"Men locked in--all die--ports open," he screeched in my ear.

"I know--can't help it--door under water--no tools," I yelled in
reply, and he howled something that ended in a screech that was
unintelligible, for over it all sounded that deep, bass roar,
thundering, booming, vibrating into chaos all sounds.

I watched him, and he climbed past me, making his way forward with
amazing speed, considering he was crawling along a wall which had been
the deck. He made the break of the poop, and disappeared, going in the
direction of the forward house, although how he ever expected to get
there was beyond reason.

Something made me follow him, and soon Slade and myself were at the
edge of the poop, and gazing down at the partly submerged door of the
starboard alleyway. While we looked, Komuri came climbing along the
rail of the ship, disappearing now and then under the solid water that
swept her, but, to our amazement, still keeping hold of the pins, and
gaining slowly toward us.

In one hand he held Oleson's ax, and he was coming toward us, coming to
do a piece of work we had already given up as impossible.

No word was spoken as Komuri struggled up to where we clung and gasped
for breath, half drowned in the rush of water.

I passed the end of a line about him after a fashion, and he dropped
off to starboard down the steep slant, and instantly went under as a
huge sea fell over the schooner.

We held the line. Then we saw him again, and he was hacking away at the
door, chopping at the lock and staple while he swung scrambling with
his feet against the planks. Slade thoughtfully dropped down other
lines, and made them fast.

I could see little of what was going on. The seas were breaking over
us now with tremendous volume, and it seemed only a question of a few
minutes before the schooner must go down, anyhow, for she couldn't lie
on her beam ends very long without something giving way.

The work of getting at those Chinks appeared to me now a useless labor.
We would all be where there was no caste, no coolies, in a short time.
And yet such is the habit of a seaman, he works on against certain
failure at times, when ordinary folk would accept the verdict and quit.

I held Komuri until my arms were nearly paralyzed, and I was fainting
with exertion and lack of air. The first thing I knew of what he had
done was when a Chink came climbing monkey fashion up one of the lines,
followed by another and another, their yellow faces pasty and drawn,
and their pigtails streaming after them. They clung along the weather
side, and lashed themselves fast to whatever they could find. I saw the
dark figures of a couple fade away in the smother to leeward, and knew
they had gone to where all Chinks go sooner or later, but the rest came
up and clung for life there in the strident breath of the typhoon, and
the booming roar drowned out even their shrieks and yelps.

I tried to haul Komuri up again, but could not. I howled for Slade
to help me, but he was separated by a row of Chinks, and couldn't
reach me. I hammered the nearest Chinaman over the head in frantic
desperation to make him haul line and save the little Jap, but the
fellow only ducked the blows, which were too weak to hurt much.

Komuri, exhausted, could not climb back. He could no longer help
himself; and he was trusting to me to get him up from the white smother
beneath that was drowning him. The madness of my weakness came over
me. I had been a bucko mate with ready hand, and could take them by
and large as they came from the dock to the forecastle, but here I was
weakening, holding to a line at the end of which was the bravest little
man I had even seen, the gamest little fighter--Komuri, son of Samurai,
the fighting class of the Japanese.

And Komuri was going to his death because I couldn't help him. On and
on I struggled with the line, bellowing curses, but I could get little
or no line over the pin, and I was growing surely weaker and weaker.

Then I stopped, and tried to see if there was any chance to help, any
chance to save the little hero. I saw Komuri dangling in the foam, his
face upturned to me, and a smile upon his yellow, wrinkled visage. He
waved feebly to me, and I knew he was signaling for me to haul him
up--and was wondering why I didn't.

"Oh, my God, you poor little devil!" I howled. "It's too bad--too bad!"

A gigantic sea crashed over the schooner, a mountain of water. I passed
the line about my waist, and snatched a turn to keep from being washed
away. That was the last I remembered for some time.

When I regained my senses I was lying on the deck, and Slade was
dragging me by the arm toward the cabin doors. The roar of the
hurricane still boomed over us--the wild rush of the sea--but it came
from aft now, and I knew they had at last got her off the wind, and
were running her either to hell or safety.

Ten minutes later I was struggling up the companionway again to the
deck, where the old man was now conning her, and watching her run
seventeen knots an hour before a series of hurricane squalls that
simply lifted her almost bodily out of the sea.

I saw we had passed the center of the cyclone, for we had the wind
almost directly opposite from where it was when we lay knocked down. I
got to the shelter of the mizzen, and from there watched the men at the
wheel hold her as she ran. Some one had loosed a bit of canvas forward,
but it had blown away, and the ribbon streamers stretched and cracked
until they vanished in the blast.

"How'd you do it?" I yelled to Slade, who clung in the lee.

"Squalls let up sudden--hit the center--she righted, and then ran off
when we hit the other side of it!" howled the mate.

"Where's Komuri?" I howled.

"Don't know--must have gone to leeward. Some Chinks gone, too--you came
near going."

That was all I could get from Slade. But I knew all that was
necessary. Komuri had gone to the port of missing ships. He had died
as a Samurai should, facing his end fearlessly, fighting to the last
for others in the hope to save them, the ones he had tried to help by
giving them air and leaving their ports open when they should have
been closed. He had known his responsibility, and had done what we had
failed to do.

There were three Chinamen missing, but our own men were safe. They had
got under the side of the engine house, where they were protected from
both the sea and wind. They clung there until the vessel righted, and
then turned to with a will to save the ship.

We ran the _Tanner_ all that day and the following night, keeping her
before a mighty sea that almost overran us. She steered well once she
got off before it, and after we got canvas on her forward she was safe
enough. It had been a close squeak for all hands, and we breathed
easier as she ran out of the disturbance and came again upon her
course. A week later we ran her in behind the reef of Guam, and came to
anchor off the town of Agaña, where we were to discharge part of our
cargo and the Chinese.

In behind the barrier we ran her without further incident, and as
the wind fell we rolled up the canvas and let her drift into fifteen
fathoms before letting go the hook.

The ladies came on deck for the first time since the typhoon, and gazed
happily at the beautiful island crowned with green, tropical foliage--a
welcome relief to the eye that had seen only the blue water for so
long. They were to leave us here, and we were to go on to Manila,
coming later to take them back upon the return voyage. It would give
them three months on Guam.

"Where is our little Jap, Kamuri--we haven't seen him for a week?"
asked Miss Aline. "He was nice about getting our things together--we
really must have him help us ashore."

"Hasn't Slade told you?" I said.

"No. What do you mean?" she asked in surprise.

"Komuri is dead--lost in the typhoon--he saved the Chinks," I answered.

Both women gasped their surprise.

"I am so sorry!" exclaimed the younger.

"And he was so good," said her aunt. "I wondered why Mr. Slade hadn't
spoken of him before. I suppose it's because Mr. Slade feels that he is
now to be your guardian and must protect you from all ill news--oh, I
forgot--you hadn't heard. Yes, Mr. Slade is the man. He saved Aline's
life, you know, and they are to be married after we get back. Strange
he didn't tell you."

I thought so, too. Slade was a sly dog--and he had used my collars,
also, in his wooing. I was--well, I was ready to congratulate any man
who could make up his mind to marry.

But I turned away so abruptly that I thought I had to apologize to
Slade afterward, to keep from getting in a row with him. But Slade
understood, and squeezed my hand.

"There's some of that port left over below," he said, and he led the
way down.

He filled two glasses to the brim, handing me one.

"To your health--and that of Miss Aline," I said stiffly, feeling that
there was something to say, or do.

"No," said Slade slowly, thoughtfully, "to the best man."

"Sure--to me, the best man at the wedding?" I said, in feigned surprise.

"Oh, no," corrected the mate. "Not at all--although you are not so bad,
old chap." He raised his eyes and looked straight into mine. "We drink
to the best man in the ship--who was in the ship--to Komuri."

And we drained our glasses.



AT THE END OF THE DRAG-ROPE


There were five men all told in the fishing schooner _Flying Star_.
I had known them all well, and had been shipmate with four of them.
Captain Johnny Sparks was a Dutchman, a "squarehead," but a good
seaman, and he had fished on the Hatteras Banks during three bluefish
seasons. His vessel was a Provincetown specimen--what used to be termed
the "Gloucester fisherman" type, before the decadence of that port in
the industry which once made it famous had ended its shipbuilding.

She was a small vessel, much smaller than the modern Provincetown
fisherman, which has a short foremast, a mainmast planted almost
amidships, and sweeping canoe bows with overhang. No, she was of the
old type--two sticks stuck upright in her at almost equal distances,
marking her into three almost equal parts; a main-topmast sprung well
forward and stayed well aft to steady the "whip" of long and continuous
plunging into a lifting head sea. She was "chunky" in model, bows
rather bluff, almost like a coaster, and her stern was of the old-time
sawed-off pattern, sunk low in the water, an ugly stern for running in
a heavy sea when the lift is quick and fast.

She was not worth over two thousand dollars, but Captain Johnny owned
half of her, and he had no criticisms to make of her behavior in heavy
weather. With a long, straight keel and full under-body, she was an
excellent sea craft, provided she was properly handled.

I was mate of the passenger ship _Prince Alfred_ with Bill Boldwin,
running from New York to the West Indies, and as we ran on schedule we
often fell in with the Hatteras fishermen twice during a voyage.

Johnny was fishing three miles north of the Diamond Shoal Lightship
as we passed him on our voyage out. He stood upon his quarterdeck
and waved to me. I was on the bridge, and bawled out I would have
some fruit for him on the return trip. He nodded and waved his hand
in appreciation, and his cook poked his head out of the galley and
grinned. His boats were scattered along the shoal, all hauling up
bluefish as fast as they could.

Four other vessels from New York were on the grounds, but I recognized
none of them. Our passengers gazed at the small boats tossing as only
light-built dories can toss in a lively sea; and they commented on the
fishing.

As a rule, the average landsman thinks all fishing is done on the Grand
or George's Banks. They get the idea from writers who know these waters
well, and it never enters their heads that the northern banks are but
a very small part of the great Atlantic fishing grounds, where the
professional fisherman must toil to wrest his living from the salt sea.

It was due to a Gloucester Yankee, though, that the great fishing
of Campeche Bank became known. Hove-to in a vicious norther a few
score miles off Galveston, the "cod-hauler" was driven gradually
off shore until he was far away from the land. Suddenly from a
fathomless gulf--he had had the perseverance to keep his lead going
at intervals--he fetched the ground in thirty fathoms, and gradually
shoaled his water.

With a hook just above the lead, he soon began to haul up snappers, and
he came running into port a few days later with his schooner loaded to
her bearings with as prime fish as ever came out of the sea.

Captain Johnny had fished there a year, but owing to the slowness of
the _Flying Star_ he had given it up until the steam patrol boat had
been put on to make the rounds and buy the fish on the grounds. It was
Johnny who had gone into Sabine once for water when Dick Hollister was
marshal.

Hollister was a saturnine chap, who wore a heavy Colt with seven
notches in the handle, each notch meant for some beggar he had been
forced to perforate in the course of his strenuous career. He was
accounted one of the most fearless and able marshals in Texas. One
morning he visited the _Flying Star_, apparently looking for a man he
wanted for a certain episode in horses. He swaggered about the decks
with his Colt in full view, and caused so much interest that he
impeded the work.

Johnny spoke softly to him--he always had a soft way of speaking--and
told him he must get ashore. The marshal turned and gazed at the little
"squarehead" in disdain; but Captain Johnny, who was sitting on his
hatch-combing, looked up with gentle gray eyes and pointed to the jetty.

"You get avay--get oudt wid you, my friend. I don't got no time fer
wastin' wid circus-actor mens wid funny fringes and artillery dragging
mid dere waist belts--git!"

And as the marshal didn't move, Johnny shied a coiled line at him,
hitting him somewhat violently in the body.

Instantly Hollister drew his Colt.

"You blamed little shrimp! if you do that again I'll plug you," he said
quietly, wiping the fish scales and salt water from his clothes. "Don't
make any mistake; I'm not your friend."

Captain Johnny was especially blue and sad that morning, so he gazed at
the marshal, while his hand reached for a heavy sinker.

"If you ain't my friend, fire away not; if you are mine friend, you
shoot me, for I'm tired enough wid dis business, an' I don't vant do be
livin' always, forever, yet. Shoot, mein dear friend, shoot--or if not
mine friend, den take dis!"

And he tossed the pound lead with such precision that it stretched
Hollister flat upon the deck before he could take good aim to do more
than rip the collar off Johnny's coat with his fire. When he came to,
Johnny was bathing his head where the sinker had cut him, and pouring
good whisky down his throat.

"You are mine friend--but a poor shot--take another drink with me, and
den go. Here's your blunderbust--you interrupts de vork on de deck--git
oudt!"

And yet there was a lot of energy in that sturdy form standing there
upon the deck of his undermanned schooner waving his acknowledgments to
me upon the bridge of the liner. Yes, Captain Johnny Sparks was a good
seaman. May the deep ocean hold him gently in its eternal embrace, for
he loved it--loved it as only a true seaman does!

We made the run south, and were coming up with a full complement of
passengers from Jamaica, when we began to notice a definite change in
the weather. It was the hurricane season, September, and the heat was
oppressive. The passengers lay about the decks in chairs all day and
half the night, getting what air the ship made with her rush of fifteen
knots an hour through the quiet sea. We ran along through the Passage,
leaving Cape Maysi out of sight before dark, and rapidly hauling up
under the lee of the Great Inagua Bank. Here in the smooth sea night
fell upon the ocean, and I went on the bridge for the first watch.

As I came into the pilot house to sign the order-book for my course,
Captain Boldwin called my attention to the glass. It had fallen rapidly
during the last few hours, and was now dangerously low.

"Keep a good lookout," he said, "and call me at the first signs of a
change." I signed the order-book, and he went below.

How many times has an officer signed that order-book before even going
on the bridge? And how many times has the said officer made an entirely
different course from that signed for? But then steamship companies do
not supply ships and coal for their officers to study navigation. It
would not look well on paper. Every officer of a passenger ship is a
licensed master, a captain; and no first-class company will ship any
other kind of man to go on the bridge to take charge for the watch
of four hours, for during that time the ship is absolutely under his
command, and it is necessary that he shall be a skilled navigator,
capable of taking the ship along just as safely should accident befall
her commander. For this responsibility he receives from seventy-five
to a hundred dollars per month; and half of the passengers whose lives
he holds in the hollow of his hand for half the night look upon him as
little better than a ship's cook!

We appeared to follow the low barometer, or it to follow us, for when
daylight came we were still running smoothly across the Atlantic with
nothing but an oppressive heat and mugginess to warn the landsman of
the low pressure.

"There's something coming along behind us; something there astern that
will probably make things howl," said Boldwin, as he came on deck in
the morning.

The sun was brassy in a coppery haze, but it was clear enough to get
a good sight for longitude. I called off three good sights, took the
note, and went below to work the longitude before breakfast. On ships
running across the Gulf or Florida Stream from the southward, bound for
New York or some port south of it, there is every necessity for getting
the westing accurate. We always found that, running diagonally across
for the Diamond Shoal Light vessel, we were set about twelve miles to
the northeast while running at from twelve to fifteen knots. This was
almost a regular fixed factor, but in heavy weather it was not always
safe to run full speed inside of it.

To make to the eastward of the lightship was well enough, but to fetch
to the westward was the one thing that has always made Boldwin nervous,
and rightly so. If he missed it going to the eastward, he would pick
up some other landfall to the northward, if he was too far off; but if
he missed it going to the westward in a driving gale, when it was too
thick to see half a mile--well, we had never done so yet, and had no
reason to pray for the experience.

We were a fast liner, full of fruit and passengers, and we could not
stop for anything on the run up. With fifty thousand bunches of bananas
below, we must drive the ship to her destination as fast as she could
go, and neither hurricane nor calm must stop her. The company seldom
kept a seaman long who brought in fifty thousand bunches of ruined
fruit, some of it twelve hands, and most of it more than eight, selling
at retail at nearly a dollar a bunch.

Two years before, Boldwin, after being hove-to for thirty-six hours
in a gale, had brought in his ship laden with fruit he had taken under
protest, the "yellow" being plainly in sight at the ends of more than
half the bunches. He had docked, and a score of men had waded about
for several days up to their hips in a mess which, once seen, causes
all lovers of bananas to eschew that fruit forever afterward. Banana
juice will cut the steel plates of a ship's side almost like diluted
sulphuric acid--but they gave him another chance.

It was late in the afternoon of the day we had run clear of the land,
when the first signs of the hurricane of September 19, 1903, made its
appearance. The swell began to roll heavily from the southeast with a
curious cross-roll from the westward, making a peculiarly uncomfortable
sea for a steamer running northward. It dropped away from under our
counter, and the _Prince Alfred_ dipped her taffrail almost to the
unruffled surface. Then she would rise upon it, and, as it lifted well
under her underbody, she would roll to port and throw her stern so high
that the starboard screw would race in a storm of foam at the surface,
shaking her tremendously, and annoying the passengers who happened to
occupy after-staterooms.

When the second officer, Smith, came on duty, I made my way aft to take
a look over things--to see that the small boats were securely lashed;
that gratings and gear were in place, for it was evident that we were
to have a piece of dirty weather. A large, fat, pale-faced woman poked
her head out of window and demanded that I have the starboard engine
stopped at once, as it was too racking on her nerves. She declared she
had stood it as long as she could, and would lodge a complaint with
the president of the company immediately she got ashore, if her demand
were not complied with instantly. I started to argue the case, but she
cut me short, exclaiming that "they never did such things on the French
boats."

All the gear was in order aft, and I had just made my way to the
bridge, when the Captain called my attention to a haze gathering to the
southward.

"The glass is starting down again--dropped two more tenths," he said.
"We'll run foul of something before eight bells. Looks like it was
following the Stream along to the northward; it usually does."

A heavy, blue-black bank of cloud, smooth, and swept into an immense
semicircle over the southern horizon, but rising fast, told of the
beginning of trouble. Half an hour later we began to feel the squalls,
which came suddenly and with vicious spurts of fine rain.

"According to old Captain Valdes," said Boldwin, "if you place your
back to the wind, the center of the blow is to the left, or port side,
and a bit behind you. This breeze is coming in from the east'ard good
and quick, and it looks like we'll fetch the center straight and fair
the way we're heading."

"Would you stop her and heave her up?" I asked.

"Stop her? Not as long as she'll swim. What do you think we are--a
sand-barge? Stop a liner running on schedule with a fortune of bananas
lying below? Get those ventilators trimmed, and put three covers on
the after hatch and lash them fast. We'll run her. Who do you think
would take this packet out the next voyage if he hove her to?"

As it was only too evident that it would be my chance, I said nothing.

The light grew dim as the gray pall of the storm quickly overspread the
sky. The dull gray light made the sea appear queer and dark, with the
great heave now running quickly, as though a mighty power were working
close behind it. The tops of the breaking combers had a peculiar lift
to them as they met the cross-swell, and the racing of the starboard
engine became more and more violent. A terrific squall bore upon the
ship, seemed to almost lift her bodily before it. The roar of the wind
whirling through the heavy standing rigging told of its velocity, and
then we waded right into the thick of it, with the _Prince Alfred_
lurching along eighteen knots an hour over a sea which was torn into a
white and gray world that ended, so far as our vision was concerned, a
few fathoms from the ship's side.

Boldwin was standing on the bridge, holding to the rail, and leaning to
the blasts as though it took his whole weight to bear up against them.
I came close to him.

"Get every one ... below! Lock in ... passengers!" I caught his words
with my ear ten inches from his mouth. "Cover ... hatches ... all fast."

I knew what he meant. When the _Prince Alfred_ closed down her cargo
there was something unusual happening. Making my way down the bridge
steps, I got the men of the watch together. It was tough work, for the
sea was now ugly, and we were running our weather-rail down at each
roll, and scooping up plenty of water which she sent across her decks
to leeward. To stand up without holding on meant to be blown bodily
against the lee rail at the risk of going over.

It was an hour before I got back to the bridge, and when I did so, the
squalls were becoming more frequent, and more and more violent, but
there was no shift yet. It soon grew dark--a black dark--and we tore
along into the blackness, unable to see two fathoms ahead. As yet we
were outside the Stream, and consequently not in the usual line of the
coasters, which are the dread of the liner's officers, for nothing
is so uncomfortable as the sudden raising of the dim and sometimes
half-extinguished lights of a schooner on a thick night while tearing
along before a gale. Having the right of way, the sailing vessel has
nothing to do but keep her course, while the steamship, with but a
few seconds to spare, swings quickly to pass, sometimes missing a
catastrophe by a few feet. A poor red light on such a night cannot be
seen twenty fathoms.

Before midnight the shift began. It came from the southward--a bad
sign, for it told plainly that we were nearing the center of the
disturbance; and as we were heading diagonally across the path of the
storm, we were almost certain to bring up in its dread vortex. As chief
officer, it would have been a bit out of place for me to suggest the
thing the ordinary seaman would do--that is, heave to and work out of
it. Boldwin stood on his bridge and kept her going.

And yet it had to come. Before daylight the sea was terrific--the
squalls coming with furious rushes, shifting, and hurling a frightful
sea. A huge, lifting hill of water broke high above the taffrail, and
roared a full fathom deep over the quarter-deck. The crash shook the
steamer through her whole frame. It was as though she had struck a
solid rock. The white glint of the foam showed through the blackness,
but the dull, thunderous roar drowned all other sounds.

Boldwin went to the speaking tube in the pilot house, called to the
chief engineer to stand by to heave her to and watch the engines as she
came into the trough.

"We'll have to stop her," he said; and I nodded assent.

In the pilot house the clanking of the steam steering gear sounded
dully in the deep, sonorous undertone of the gale outside.

Boldwin waited but a moment, and then gave the order:

"Hard over, sir!" cried the quartermaster; and the rattling clank
of the engine sounded the signal for me to take advantage of the
opportunity to get outside by the lee door.

If it had been blowing before while we were running, it was now a blast.

The _Prince Alfred_ laid down her whole five hundred feet of steel side
into that sea, and the crash of the mighty hill that swept her shook
her as though she had been struck amidships by the ram of a battleship.
The forward funnel guys parted, and I had a momentary glimpse of a
great pillar of iron going over the side to leeward. Then she began to
head the sea, and no human could face the storm of flying water which
swept the bridge.

With heads down, gasping for breath, Boldwin and myself gripped the
bridge rail. The flying atmosphere tore past us. We dared not loose our
grasp for an instant, and to get back to the shelter of the pilot house
was impossible without following the iron rail aft.

After a thunderous rush of quick and vicious squalls, there was a
sudden lull. A giant comber showed ahead, and its white and foaming
crest lifted clear into the night. She buried her whole forward deck,
and, as the water cleared, we could see about us. The dull snore of a
giant sea sounded close aboard. It was uncanny, this sudden stillness,
full of a palpitating murmur and pregnant with an ominous power.

"Right in it!" gasped Boldwin. "How does she head now?"

"Southeast by south," I answered. "The next squall will probably come
from the northwest."

"Well, I guess we'll swing her while it's still--Lord, what an awful
sea!"

The _Prince Alfred_ came slowly around with her engines turning at
half speed. The high, leaping hills of water seemed to come from all
directions at once. They fell upon her decks and shook her up a
bit, but did no damage. Five, ten, fifteen minutes passed. A distant
murmuring sounded over the torn sea.

"Which way?" asked Boldwin nervously.

A puff of cool air blew straight in our faces; we had not noted how
sultry it was, for we were soaking wet and exhausted. The puff blew to
a breeze. Then came a spurt of rain and a faint flash of lightning. In
a minute we were facing furious squalls, and the _Prince Alfred_, with
a full head of steam, had all she could do to keep steering way with
her nose pointed straight into the blast from nor'-nor'-west.

It was in the gray of the early morning, while Boldwin and I were still
on the bridge, and the second and third officers were in charge of the
saloons quelling the panic, that we sighted something dead ahead. The
squalls were still whirling over us with longer intervals between, but
with still undiminished vigor. The great sea began to show in front now
through the dim light, and it was all the full-powered liner could do
to hold her own head to it. To swerve to either side meant falling off
into the dangerous trough, with the hazard of not being able to regain
her course. Even as it was, we had to more than once slow the port or
starboard engine to enable her to point her nose straight into the
hurricane.

Upon the crest of a giant hill of water something showed black. It was
a momentary glimpse, but Boldwin and I saw it instantly. It was close
aboard and, as we yelled to each other and strained our eyes ahead,
we made out the thin line of a mast. Boldwin dropped on his hands and
knees and was blown to the pilot-house door. I waved my hand to ease
her to starboard a little. Just then a sea struck us heavily upon the
starboard bow, and held her with its rush. The next moment the shape
ahead was high upon the crest of a mighty sea, and I recognized the
stern of a vessel outlined against the gray pall.

I looked over the side. The foam was lying dead with us, showing we
were not going ahead more than a knot or two. Boldwin saw it also, and
knew that to slew his ship now would mean to get struck a blow in the
side which in that sea would probably prove fatal. He thought of his
passengers. They must be considered first. Whatever was ahead was going
to hit us, and it was due to those we had aboard that it must strike
us as fairly upon the stem as we could land it. God help them, we must
save our own!

We plunged headlong into the trough, and right above us upon the
following crest rose the stern of that sailing vessel. She was plainly
in view now; so close that I recognized the sawed-off shape of an
old-time fishing schooner. Upon her main a bit of rag like a trysail
showed white. She was heading the sea at the end of her sea anchor, a
long drag-rope, and as her deck showed, I saw she had been badly swept.

There was no one in sight. She was going astern fast, much faster than
we thought, for even while Boldwin tried to edge to starboard, and did
all he could to swing his ship without getting his head thrown off with
the sea, the stern sank just ahead of us in the hollow of a sea, and
our stem rose above. I leaned forward and held my breath. The _Prince
Alfred_ fell headlong into the hollow, and just as we struck I read the
name _Flying Star_ painted large and white right across the transom.

A dull grinding thud, which shook the _Prince Alfred_ but slightly, was
all that came to us. A sea swung the wreck to port, and as she heeled
and settled, I saw Johnny Sparks spring from the companionway, followed
by several men. The next instant a great comber roared over them and
the schooner disappeared, leaving nothing above the foam to show where
she had floated a moment before. Something caught in my throat. I shut
my eyes, and held my head down for I don't know how long.

We came into port four days later with Boldwin on the bridge, his face
lined and haggard. Below, thirty thousand dollars' worth of bananas
slushed about in a ghastly mess, in spite of the pens and shorings. But
the passengers were happy. Women in gay dresses came on deck and smiled
and chatted, and children romped and played. The captain did not look
at me--he had not since the collision--but he spoke to me for the first
time.

"See that everything is shipshape when we dock," said he, "and then
meet me at the company's office at four o'clock. I'll probably not take
her out next voyage--take a lay-off for a while--understand?"



PIRATES TWAIN


At last I was back in the regular liners of the Prince ships. My work
on the _Heraldine_ had been appreciated by Lord Hawkes, the manager,
and his lordship was no piker.

He refused Boldwin my company when that worthy but thirsty skipper
asked to have me back in the old _Prince Alfred_, where a certain lady
whom I admired greatly was stewardess.

The new _Prince George_, twenty-five thousand tons and a
twenty-two-knot vessel, was wanting a first officer, and old man Hall
was somewhat disposed to give me "a chance," as the saying is at sea
when an officer applies for a berth.

"You may report to the captain to-morrow at the dock," said his
lordship, and our interview was at an end. Boldwin looked sour, for I
had been a good mate to him, and he wanted me badly, but the manager's
word was law.

I found the giant liner all that modern improvements could make her.
From her six-hundred-foot keel to her four immense funnel tops, she was
a beauty.

It would take a week to describe her many qualities, and I must admit
it gave me a feeling of responsibility when I stepped upon her flying
bridge and looked her over.

There I would be in command every four hours, and when I gazed over her
immense length and breadth it seemed indeed that I must be a person of
some small ability to hold the job.

No flippant remarks here, no joking about the passengers or the
company. It was silence and dignity.

How I stood it at first is more of a wonder to me, when I look back
at the time, than the actual work, for really a ship's officer is not
considered a mighty position, even though he does hold the lives of a
couple of thousand folks in his keeping during his watch on deck.

But I was not too old, and had ambition, for some day I wanted to have
a little farm of my own and raise chickens and hogs--the true ambition
of every seaman I ever met--and I wanted to ask a certain lady to run
the said farm for me, or rather do the cooking, which is probably the
same thing.

Our crew was shipped by the agents. Old man Hall had nothing whatever
to do but act as overseer of the navigators, which same were myself and
a second officer named MacFarland.

Mac was a good seaman, although he had never been in sail, but had
risen from the apprentice school of officers established by the company
to train men for its ships--and they were of course all steam.

I must admit he knew more of express ships than I, but I had ten years
more sea duty done, and I was something of a windjammer in my time.
This gave me the rating with the older men who had served the same way
in the old sailing vessels.

We knew each other, and could depend always upon certain things in each
other that no school could develop the same way. I sat at the head of
the chief officers' table, and I bought a book of table etiquette to
get the lay of the whack just right.

It taught me many things I hadn't learned in a ship's forecastle, and
soon I was able to speak to the prosperous-looking passengers without
feeling that my tongue was in the way of my teeth.

We carried three hundred first-class--that was some when you think
of it--and we often herded fifteen hundred to two thousand in the
steerage. Four hundred seconds added sometimes put our total complement
over three thousand souls, counting, of course, our crew, stokers, and
waiters.

You will realize at once the inability of a chief mate getting even the
slightest acquaintance with hundreds of the people who used the _Prince
George_ for transportation across the ocean, and, if I could not get
a line on them, it was equally impossible for the pursers, pursers'
clerks, and stewards to do so.

Mr. Samuels, the head purser, had a memory that was said to be
infallible. He said he never forgot a face. Of the million or two
people he came in contact with during his runs, he boasted that he
could always tell if he had ever seen one of them before.

I didn't believe it, of course; but, then, pursers have a way that
many seamen can't understand, anyhow.

Being an express ship, and carrying the first-class mail, we also had
an express safe. This was built into the body of the vessel, and was
like the new bank safes, with solid steel doors and time locks.

Two watchmen took charge, alternating night and day, and the massive
doors were not to be opened by any one alone. In that safe we often
carried three or four million dollars in solid gold bars or gold coin.

Sometimes the banking houses of the United States shipped as much as
two million at a time in coin. Precautions were of the modern banking
sort, and the giant safe caused no comment.

The other safes of the purser and captain were just plain, every-day
affairs, and seldom held more than a few thousand dollars. These were
very different from the "through" safe.

       *       *       *       *       *

I had been in the ship four months before I noticed a man who sat at
my table. He had made a voyage with us the first run I made, and I
remembered him as a clergyman who had relatives abroad in Europe, but
who was himself an American.

He was a very dignified man, about fifty-five years of age, and he
knew a great deal. I enjoyed talking to him, for he told me of many
places and events that were most interesting. But he never at any time
discussed religion, or even spoke of subjects relating to it.

Once on his second trip over, he came to my room, and presented me
with a box of fine Havana cigars and, although it was against custom, I
asked him in, and he came.

We smoked while I should have been sleeping, but I was not by any means
overworked, and I rather enjoyed his society, flattered of course that
a man of such vast experience and learning should single out the chief
officer for a companion.

But then I knew many folks looked upon a master navigator as a likely
person to know, and was not very much surprised, setting it down to his
good taste and discernment--for I had gone a mile or two myself in my
day, and had seen a few things both ashore and afloat.

Once I remember he talked of finance and the great gold shipments that
were disturbing the country. He had followed the administration in its
effort to curb a panic that was threatened, and spoke of the money we
carried in gold coin that was for the purpose of staying a run at that
time upon a banking house that had many foreign affiliations.

"The express safe is generally full, is it not, during times like
these?" he asked.

"Yes, we carry millions every voyage now," I answered, and noticed that
the Reverend Mr. Jackson made a peculiar grimace as if amused at the
news.

The conversation immediately drifted off to Cape Town, where the
minister had lately spent much time, and he soon left me to my slumber
and cigars.

I noticed that he had remarkable hands, immensely strong, as though he
had done much hard work, and afterward I wondered at a small tattoo
mark on his wrist just beneath the edge of his cuff. He had powerful,
hairy wrists, and the blue mark showed very indistinctly through the
black hair, but it caused me to think of him as a strange man.

I asked him about it the next day when at the table, but he made an
evasive answer, smiling at my compliment to his strong physique.

"I was something of an athlete in my younger days," he finally
admitted, "and you must not think that because of my profession I live
a sedentary life. I work very hard among my parishioners, and play golf
a great deal. Of course, you, as a seaman, would hardly appreciate the
mysteries of this manly game."

"I confess that it seems rather tame," I admitted; "seems like a poor
sort of 'shinny' we used to play in America when I was a lad."

"My wife plays it also, and she is very strong and agile from the
exercise," said Mr. Jackson; "I hope you will meet her next month when
I return, as she will probably go to London with me."

I expressed pleasure at the thought, and noticed that Doctor Jackson
was really quite a good-looking man, and there was no reason in the
world why he should not possess a very pretty wife.

His clean-shaven face, lined, it is true, as though he had spent much
time at physical exertion of the heavier sort, was handsome enough. A
large, high nose, not badly shaped, set in between two steel-blue eyes,
wide apart, and his mouth, although thin-lipped and hard-looking, was
not ugly, and his teeth were large, even, and snow-white.

Altogether he was a man of strength and character from his appearance,
and I remembered him for his kindness--and cigars.

Three weeks later, upon the return voyage, he came aboard and told me
he would bring his wife aboard the next morning, and was just then
seeing to his room, which was amidships, and upon the lower or main
deck, just above the express room and over the steel safe.

He asked me if I thought the noise from below would disturb them, his
wife being a nervous woman and irritable. I knew no sounds of any
consequence would penetrate the deck, which was steel, and assured him
that the voyage would be most pleasant, as the time of year was fine
upon the western ocean.

The next day I was too busy to notice the couple, but when we were at
sea and had made our departure, allowing me to go below to dinner, I
found that Doctor Jackson and his wife were seated at my table about
midway down the row of seats.

The minister nodded to me, and his wife smiled pleasantly. Her back
was to the ports, and the light was bad, but I saw that she was about
thirty, and very masculine in her appearance.

She had a very good complexion, rosy and healthy, but her face had a
peculiar hardness, a settling about the corners of the mouth that boded
ill for any one who crossed her temper. I made up my mind to feel sorry
for the doctor. Her voice I could hear very indistinctly, but it had a
sort of hardness, a suppressed tone of assumed smoothness which I did
not like.

At eight bells that night when the day's work allowed me to get my time
below, I met them as I left the bridge. The doctor introduced me to
the lady, who stood tall and commanding in the darkness. She murmured
something indefinite, but acknowledged me without offering her hand.

I believed this coldness was more cultivated than natural, but, as I
had learned since being in express ships that ladies did, or did not
shake hands, according to their training, I passed it up for what it
was worth.

Doctor Jackson seemed a bit annoyed at the strained feeling, but I saw
no reason why a woman, a wife of a minister, should find much in common
with a seaman, even if he did happen to be the chief mate of the liner.

Our ways would naturally be different. Her topics of conversation would
not fit in with mine, and I was mortally afraid of offending her by
some sailor's slip in my tongue.

I really was glad when they left me to go to my room, and I hoped that
I would not have to entertain them any more than the rules of the
liner's etiquette called for.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next day the doctor informed me that his wife had succumbed to the
rigors of the sea and the motion had made her deathly ill. I saw her no
more, and it was the fifth day out when the steward came to my room at
night and asked to speak to me privately.

"The couple in Room Sixty-two will not allow their bed to be made up
nor any one to enter. Doctor Jackson said to see you and it would be
all right; but you know, sir, it's against the rules not to allow
inspection. If you will attend to the matter, it will take the weight
off the old man--he tried to enter, but he was told he could not, owing
to the lady's indisposition."

"Aw, they're all right," I said. "Tell the captain I know the old
sky-pilot well, and that he's a minister who has been across twice
before with us. I'll go down there myself to-morrow and inspect. Give
the doctor my compliments and tell him I'm sorry the rules make the
inspection necessary."

"There's a strong smell of whisky, alcohol, sir, all the time, coming
from the room--don't know what it can be, but I'm afraid of fire. It's
probably some of those patent traveling stoves they use for heating
certain medicines or something."

"Well, cut it out--I'll go down in the morning--that's all," I said,
and then I turned in and forgot all about the incident.

The next day when I went below, I found the doctor and his wife waiting
for me. The lady had her face wrapped up in towels, and the doctor was
reading, sitting near the bed, which was a brass one, bolted to the
deck.

I excused myself, and was just on the point of leaving when I noticed
the smell of alcohol. It was mixed with one similar to the heated odor
of a red-hot stovepipe, burning metal.

"Have any trouble with the lights?" I asked.

"Oh, no, everything is all right--one of the electrics broke and made a
little smell--no, all is as comfortable as one could wish, thank you,"
said the doctor.

"I suppose you'll go the route all the way up?" I asked.

"No, we'll transship at Queenstown--there's a yacht waiting for me
there, and we'll take her for the rest of the way to the African coast,
by way of Gibraltar. You might help us with our luggage to-morrow--our
little trunk is very heavy, you see." And he tried to raise one end of
a small steamer trunk that was allowed in the room.

"Oh, that will be all right--the steward will fix you up--I'll see you
before you go," I said, turning away.

"I hope so," returned the doctor, with a most peculiar intonation in
his voice that made me look at him. But he was now turning the leaves
of the book again, and a moan from the bed made me hesitate no longer.

I left them, and sent word to the head steward to see to my friends
getting ashore in the morning.

As we entered the Channel, the passengers who were to go ashore came on
deck. Doctor Jackson and his wife appeared at the gangway, and waited
quietly for the boat.

The lady was now wrapped up in shawls, and her face was heavily veiled.
The clergyman himself seemed a bit nervous, but they finally went over
the side with their luggage all right.

What he had told about that steamer trunk was no joke. Two assistant
stewards could hardly lift it.

Bound with iron and stoutly strapped, it seemed as though it would
burst of its own weight before it was placed in the lugger that
would take it ashore or rather to the small schooner that lay a few
miles distant and which the doctor had pointed out as the vessel he
had chartered as a yacht to take them on their summer cruise to the
beautiful Mediterranean.

I waved my hand, and then went below to turn in, for the last night is
always a bad one for the chief mate when making the land.

"Bang, bang, bang," came blows upon my door, followed by a yell from
without. I expected to find the ship in collision, and leaped from my
bunk half asleep. The express messenger stood without, accompanied by
four assistants and the steward, the purser, and the second officer.

"Safe blown, sir!" yelled the messenger. "It's bloomin' well half
empty, sir! Nearly a quarter of a million gone. Party from above--you
knew them, the steward says!"

I ran with them to Room Sixty-two, and burst in where the captain stood
gazing at a hole in the deck. He turned to me, but said nothing. The
rug which had been placed over the opening was thrown aside, and there
lay a hole eighteen inches wide right in the floor.

Upon the sides the charred wood told of some fierce heat to which it
had been exposed. The heavy steel plate beneath had been melted and
burned as if the blast of a volcano had seared it.

Ragged-edged, melted, and bent lay the plate, and beneath it again
lay the hole in the express safe right in the treasure room beneath.
Down and through all led the seared hole. Some mighty heat had melted,
burned, and blown away the plates of hard steel.

I leaned over, and gazed down into the room where the gold had been
packed in the short, stout boxes of the bank. It was scattered about,
thrown all around in confusion as though the robbers had at last given
up all hope of getting more out.

They had taken all that two men could lift or carry for a few rods,
stopping only at the limit of their endurance; and, though the amount
was not so large as the express messenger had at first stated, it ran
well over one hundred thousand dollars.

       *       *       *       *       *

For a moment I stood staring from the hole to Captain Hall and back,
too amazed to speak, while the old man looked at me keenly.

"Nice little job," he commented dryly.

"The doctor and his wife--do you think?" I asked. I was beginning to
see light.

"Wife, thunder! That was a young man of tremendous strength," snarled
the express messenger. "Look how he used that electric burner--look how
he bent and tore at the plate--he was a giant--had the current on his
hot chisel all day--that's the smell you noticed. Probably the two
most expert safe-crackers alive, and our outfit gave them the chance
to work the hot knife, burn their way in where they never could have
blown. They connected with the light--got current enough to work with,
and covered up with the rug----"

"Well, we won't waste time seeing how it was done; we'll get a move
after them", said the old man. "Jump on deck, and blow the siren--blow
the alarm for fire, police--set the signals----"

I was gone before he had finished, and by the time the uproar was well
under way I had time to gaze toward the little schooner the doctor had
marked out as his yacht.

She was still lying at anchor, but beyond her and about five miles
distant lay a fishing schooner with very tall spars and a very able
look. She was hoisting her foresail, and I could just make out that she
was getting under way at once.

I waited no longer. Jumping to the upper deck, I yelled for the crew
of the first cutter, boat number one, and gave the signal for her men.
They came scrambling as to the drill, and as they came I yelled to
young Smith, the third officer, to get arms and join me.

He dashed into his room, and came back with a heavy revolver. The
express messenger came up while we were lowering away, and handed me
another.

"We'll go with you," he said.

"No! No use loading her down with men," I replied; "we want to get some
speed on her--row six oars double banked, and that'll fill her up--you
can come, you, Smith, and myself--it won't take a ship's crew to get
them--lower away," I called, and the boat dropped.

We followed, and in less time than it takes to tell it we were going
through the sea at seven knots an hour with the best-drilled boat in
the ship. Three men aft armed, and that was all.

It was a bright summer morning, with almost no wind, and I was certain
that we would soon overhaul the runaways. The schooner lifted her
anchor, and stood out to the westward and southward, and soon appeared
to be making good headway.

"By Jupiter, she's got a motor in her!" said Smith.

She was going ahead, almost straight in the eye of the wind, just close
enough to keep her sails full, and she was moving a good five knots.
She was a good four miles distant, and we would have to do some fine
rowing to catch her.

I looked my men over, and wondered if they could stand it. They pulled
steadily, and the boat went along swiftly, but even a heavy ship with
an engine has a distinct advantage over oars.

The schooner's motor was but an auxiliary, to be sure, but five or six
knots under motor was something desperate to catch by rowing when we
were so far astern.

At the end of another mile I was getting anxious. Our bearings were not
changed to any extent, and the third officer looked askance at me.

"Give it to her, bullies--there's a hundred apiece if we get them," I
said, and swung my body with the stroke of the oars. This had an effect
upon the men. A hundred dollars was more than three months' pay.

They put their weight upon the ash, and the boat fairly lifted under
the strain. The sweat began to pour down their faces, and the wind died
away, until the swell ran oily and smooth.

"Give it to her," I cried again, as we gained a little.

The two men at the bow oar swung mightily upon it. There was a sharp
crack. The bow oar snapped off at the rowlock, and the boat eased up
her speed, leaving two good men idle.

"Great snakes!" howled Smith, and the express messenger looked at me in
despair.

"We can't catch her now," he muttered.

I knew it was true. We were now dropping back, and I kept on only
because I felt that it would not do to give up. I scanned the sea for
signs of a boat.

There were some fishing to the northward, and it was our only chance. I
swung her around toward them.

"We've got to try for one--maybe there's one with a good motor in her,"
I said. In a quarter of an hour we were up to one boat, and saw she was
not fit. We swept past without slowing up.

"Any boat about here with a strong motor?" I asked, as we came close.

A fisherman waved his hand to the northward.

"Boat up there--_Seawave_--she's fast; what's the matter?" he replied.

But we were gone without further words, and soon came to the boat. She
was long and narrow, built like a seiner, only not so heavy. Two men
sat in her with lines out I hailed them as we came up.

"Want to catch that schooner out there," I yelled, pointing to the
vessel. "Give you a hundred dollars if you land us alongside--quick."

"Got the money?" asked the man who appeared to own her.

We came alongside without delay, and I felt rather foolish for a
moment. But the express messenger had the cash with him. He handed it
over without a word, and the fisherman turned quickly to his engine.

The other man pulled up the anchor at once, and in half a minute we
were under way, with the motor roaring out its glad sound in a series
of rapid shots that were like the discharges of a rapid-fire gun.

"Take the boat and follow," I called to the men, and then Smith, the
messenger, and myself were away in the wake of the schooner that was
now a good five miles off and going steadily seaward. It would be a
chase for fair.

"Can you make it?" I asked the owner, who sat in his oilskins at the
engine.

"Sure t'ing we make 'em--'bout two, three hours, if the gas holds out."

We were now going along at eight knots and running steadily. After
all, there's nothing like machinery to get things done.

"This is something like," said Smith. "There'll be some shooting inside
of an hour if the signs hold."

The messenger said nothing. The men of the boat had not asked a
question. They had taken us at our word, and were doing what they could
to put us alongside.

Perhaps it would be different when we came to close quarters. We had
better tell them what our errand was before they stopped the motor
at the beginning of hostilities. They might take us for what we were
after--burglars, and spoil our chance to make a catch.

We drew near the schooner after two hours' chase. The land was lost
astern, and we had run fully fifteen miles off shore.

The breeze began to freshen, but not enough to give the schooner her
full, or even half, speed. She plugged along steadily at about five
knots, and we drew up close enough to see a man at the wheel and no one
else on deck.

Smith and the messenger told our skipper how matters stood, and the
fisherman seemed to hardly relish the game after he knew it. There was
certain to be trouble.

"Schooner ahoy!" I yelled, as we drew near enough to hail.

The man at the wheel paid no attention until I had repeated it several
times. Then he turned and asked us what we wished in no pleasant tone.

"You stop your engine and let us board," I yelled. "You have two
robbers aboard, and we want them in the name of the law."

"Who are you?" asked the man, spitting over the rail. "Go away--I don't
know you."

"Run alongside--we'll jump her," I said to the skipper. The messenger,
Smith, and myself drew our revolvers, and stood ready as the small
craft came up to the main channels. The schooner kept right along. We
sprang aboard without meeting resistance, and gained the deck.

"Where're your passengers? Don't fool with us," I snapped. "There's an
old man and a young one dressed as a woman."

"Oh, Doctor Jackson and the young feller--they're down below--asleep.
What do you want with them?"

       *       *       *       *       *

We wasted no time talking. All three jumped down the companionway and
into the little cabin. Doctor Jackson was in a bunk, apparently fast
asleep, and a young man, whom I instantly recognized as the "wife," lay
reclining upon a transom.

"Well, what's the row--what's up?" asked the young fellow, rising at
the sight of three armed men.

"We want you--you know what for," said the messenger quietly. "Don't
make any trouble--we won't stand it--come right along back with us, you
and the other fellow there."

The doctor awoke, and sat up, seemingly amazed. He expostulated, was
dumfounded at the charge, couldn't understand it--we must all be
crazy. Two men came from forward and joined our group. It was all
hands, just three men and two passengers--five in all to work the ship.

"Stop the engine," I ordered, "and either come with us or turn the
schooner back, and we'll go with you."

They turned her around, and stood back toward the shore. On the way,
while one of us stood guard over the two, the rest searched the
schooner for the treasure, for the trunk. There was not a sign of gold
anywhere aboard her.

We took turns, but found nothing, leaving not a bolt hole unsearched.
It was disheartening, and looked like we had lost, after all.

"Well, what do you make of it?" I asked the messenger.

"Looks like they got us right, after all," he said; "we haven't the
slightest clew to the money, and won't get it after they once get in to
the police. They'll buy their way out, for there's not the slightest
evidence they did the job, although I know it was them as well as they
themselves."

"Plant it, you think?"

"Sure as death, they dropped it somewhere, and they only know just
where. They'll take a chance at going up for a spell, doing their bit,
and then getting the cache. It's on the course out somewhere, but just
where who knows? We're out of sight of land now, and it'll take a
wizard to locate it on the schooner's course."

"That's right enough," I asserted, "but how about trying them for a
confession?"

"Go ahead," he replied gloomily.

I put it right up to the doctor. I promised him complete immunity if he
would just tell where they had dropped that four hundred and odd pounds
of gold.

The pair simply grinned in amusement. It seemed to tickle them
immensely.

"And so you'd be a party to a felony?" asked the doctor, with great
regret in his tone. "I didn't think that of you, captain--you surely
disappoint me greatly. Now, if I knew where the gold lay, I should
tell you at once, but warn you not to touch it, for I don't believe in
mixing up with things of this sort. The men you are after must surely
have taken the stuff on the previous voyage--or some other time----"

"All right," I interrupted, "if you want it that way, you'll get it. We
have enough evidence to send you up for twenty years at least--direct
evidence."

"I hate to hear you take on in this terrible manner, my dear captain,
but I don't see what I can do about it. What makes you think I had
anything to do with that gold?"

It was of no use. They would not talk about it. I began to study the
schooner's course and try to figure out where in that vast area of
sea they could have let the stuff go overboard with the certainty of
getting hold of it again.

In a short time we met our own boat being rowed rapidly after us, and
then we took her in tow and dismissed our motor boat, which had been
dragging along at the main channels. The men had earned their hundred,
and they departed, highly pleased at their luck, which represented more
than a month's profits fishing.

As our boat came alongside, we were hailed joyfully by Jim Sanders, the
coxswain, during my absence, and he held up a long line, at the end of
which was fastened a small buoy. The other we saw was fast to the small
trunk.

"We found it all right", said Jim. "We was rowing along fast after
you, an' suddenly my eye catches sight o' this here float. I grabs it,
and up comes that trunk fast to the other end in about ten fathoms of
water. That trunk is sure some heavy, and I reckon it's got the stuff
in it."

"Very good, very good indeed," cried the messenger. "Now things look
better."

"Yes," said the third officer, "this is what we are looking for--no
mistake."

"Hoist it right on deck," I said, and a line was passed to it. It was
all two men could do to get it aboard. When it was safe on the deck, I
went below and saw the doctor.

"We have the trunk with the gold all safe--now, what have you to say?"
I said.

"Indeed?" asked the doctor, in surprise.

"Not really, say not so," remarked the younger man, in mock alarm.
"Why, then you seem to have what you've been after, what you are
looking for. If that is all, you better let us turn the ship about
and continue our journey. Why didn't you say you were looking for that
trunk?"

A yell from the deck told me something was not right. I came up the
companion, and looked out, holding my pistol ready for trouble. The
messenger was standing at the side of the trunk. So also was Smith.

Two men had just opened it, and had dumped a lot of old iron and bolts
onto the deck, where they lay in a pile of rusty, wet junk.

       *       *       *       *       *

For a moment I gazed in amazement at the littered deck. Then I smiled.

"Do you suppose we could have made a mistake by any possible means?" I
asked the express messenger.

"Not by any chance, not a chance. This is a plant--why should they sink
this trunk with a line and buoy to it? It proves beyond all doubt they
have got the stuff somewhere. They dropped it, hoping we would stop and
haul it up, and they'd gain just so much time by the device."

"Then where in Davy Jones is the swag? Where could they have hidden it?"

"That's for us to find out--I don't know."

As we came in, a dozen boats came to meet us. The police took charge,
and the two prisoners were ironed and taken ashore. The schooner was
put in charge of detectives, and no one allowed aboard her.

We went back to the ship in our boat, and reported the capture of the
men, but the loss of the money. Whereat Captain Hall was so angry that
he would not speak to me that day. I felt that I had done what I could
and that I was not at fault.

I could do no less--nor no more, for that matter. I went below, and the
ship went on to her dock, the passengers were sent ashore, and the dull
routine of the lay-up began.

I had some time now to myself, and studied the situation carefully.
It would be a month before the trial, and we would have made another
voyage before then. I was served, however, with a subpoena to appear
as a principal witness, and I put the paper away and took up the study
of the case with vigor.

The three men aboard the schooner who had acted as crew were not in the
game. That was evident, for they proved to be just plain fishermen who
had chartered their craft to the doctor upon an agreement made on his
former voyage. He had planned the coup, and made the vessel ready for
the getaway. That was certain. The men were discharged.

Every portion of the schooner capable of hiding a gold piece was
thoroughly probed. Even her masts were bored at intervals, and she was
hauled out and her keel searched for a hollow that might contain the
treasure. Everything that men could do was apparently done. But not a
sign of gold.

The two men, the doctor and his accomplice, were sent to trial, and had
the best lawyer in England to defend them, a man who did not work for
small amounts. I noted that fact and waited.

They were sent up for two years each solely on the circumstantial
evidence that they had occupied the room above the safe on that voyage
and that if any one had committed the theft upon a former voyage it
must necessarily have been discovered, as the safe was thoroughly
cleaned and refilled with a new cargo of gold for that single trip.

The schooner was sold at auction by the fishermen who owned her, as
they were afraid to run her under the continual scrutiny which the
company put upon her. She was broken up and her gear sold for junk.
That was the end of her.

It was thoroughly believed that the treasure was planted somewhere on
the course we had taken during the chase, and many fishermen dragged
the sea on that line in the hope of reward. But nothing came of it, and
a year passed.

The time came for the doctor and his pal to get out, for the law which
cut the prison term to one-half for good behavior was now in force. I
watched the papers, and tried to keep posted, but nothing was printed
about the convicts.

One day the doctor and his partner came aboard just as we were leaving,
and spoke pleasantly to me. They had taken second class and return to
New York. It was pure nerve, I thought, but the regulations allowed
them the privilege, as they might not, under the "undesirable-citizen"
act, be allowed to land in the States.

They took no pains at all to hide their identity, and greeted me most
cordially when I met them on deck the first day out. I asked them about
their sojourn in Dartmoor, and they talked freely, telling of the
rigors of prison life.

"But it is all over now," said the doctor. "We will live our lives as
we always have, clean, honest, without fear and without reproach. We
were innocent, as you know."

"Perhaps so--but what became of the gold?" I asked cynically.

"Ah, yes, the gold," murmured the doctor. "To be sure there was some
doubt about the--what shall I call it?--the disposition of the treasure
that the robbers worked so hard for. That will always be a mystery."

I thought differently. I had by the process of elimination long ago
come to the conclusion that the gold never left the ship in Europe.

The strange way they had taken their baggage ashore, their ostentatious
manner of taking out the heavy trunk and lowering it over the side in
full view of all was evidently meant for a purpose.

Why had they taken so much trouble to let all see its weight? Why had
they dragged it with them when, after all, it contained apparently
nothing but old iron? That it was to cover up the real effort of
disposition was growing more and more plain to me, but, then, where
could they have planted the heavy weight of gold?

They could not have dropped it in mid-ocean--that was absurd. It did
not occur to me for a long time that the hour down the bay from New
York out to the lightship might suffice to enable them to cut into the
through safe, which, of course, would not be opened until the other
side was reached.

It was upon a return voyage that an incident occurred that started my
line of research upon the American channel.

I noticed that in going down the bay we were forced--owing to the great
length of the ship--close to the Southwest Spit Buoy. The turn here
is abrupt, and, while the tide runs swiftly, there is a certainty of
position always for a large ship.

A smaller vessel might swing well out, but a vessel of the _Prince's_
size could not. Then the idea of the buoys marking the line at close
intervals came to me. It was just what they would desire for marking
their cache.

They could make a note of position, and drop their swag so closely
to an established position that there would be no trouble at all in
picking it up, even after a year's submersion.

The trunk must have carried the hot-chisel outfit, the electrical tools
for cutting, and these the burglars had tossed into the sea at the
first opportunity, afterward filling the trunk with junk for a blind,
feeling sure we would think it held the treasure.

I had studied the process of cutting with an electrical jimmy, the
melting of the plates, and I soon came to the conclusion that the job
was done, finished before the ship left soundings off Sandy Hook.

The pair were seemingly not well supplied with money, and I determined
to watch them after they got ashore. By some strange freak the
inspectors passed them, and they disappeared in the city, leaving no
trace.

"I want a two-weeks' leave of absence," I said to the old man that
night, "and I want it right away--I'll get the gold we lost or lose my
job. I'll take the third mate with me. Smith knows them."

There was some trouble getting officers to fill our berths on such
short notice, but the old man had some faith in me, and let us go.
I drew a hundred dollars in pay, and we went right to Brooklyn and
chartered a fast and powerful launch.

Then we ran over the course the ship always steered on her run out the
main ship channel, going close to the Southwest Spit Buoy.

We did not come back to town again, but remained in the boat for two
days and nights, coming in only to get gasoline and supplies, and then
keeping right on the run in and out to sea.

It was lonesome work, and we passed many small boats daily, but none
had the men we hoped for in them.

The third evening, just about dark, we noticed a launch running for the
red buoy at the turn of the channel near Sandy Hook. We both were much
disguised, being rigged with false beards and uncouth clothes.

In daylight no one would have recognized us thirty feet distant, and at
night we might have talked to our best friends without detection.

As we came in, running very slow, we noticed a boat with two men in her
near the Southwest Spit Buoy. The boat had stopped, and the men were
doing nothing. They seemed to be waiting for something.

We came past, sitting well below the gunwales of our craft, but
watching the other boat. When we came within fifty feet Smith sank
below the coamings.

"That's them all right," he whispered.

I watched the pair from the corner of my eye, and headed away from the
vicinity, keeping well down in our boat, and showing nothing but the
back of an old battered hat.

It was the doctor and his pal, and they were at work. They stood back
and forth across the channel a few times, and one of them held a line
towing astern. It was evident that they were dragging a grapnel over a
certain part of the channel marked by the buoy and bearings upon Sandy
Hook.

Before we were half a mile away, they were hauling in the drag, both at
it with all their strength, and we knew they had struck something.

It was necessary to decide at once what to do. If they had the cache,
we would find it; if they had hold of something else or were simply
playing to throw any one off the scent, they would keep their secret.
We decided to take the chance.

I swung the launch around, and opened her up to the limit. In an
instant we were flying toward them at fifteen miles an hour, and
within two minutes were in hailing distance. They saw us coming, and
hesitated. That hesitation made me sure of our game. They would not let
go the cache unless something dangerous was about to happen, the danger
of losing it altogether being too great. Smith jumped up, revolver in
hand, as the launch came tearing up.

"Hands up--stop that drag," he yelled. "We've got you, Doctor Jackson."

A flash flicked the gloom, and a sharp "pop" sounded, followed by
another and another. Smith dropped his gun, and fell into the bottom of
the boat.

"They got me," he gasped.

Then he raised himself upon his knees and, while I headed the flying
craft straight for them and opened fire, Smith rested his revolver upon
the coamings, and shot the doctor through the head.

Then the launch crashed into their craft, going at full speed, and her
sharp nose cut straight in a full foot and a half before she stopped.

The young man who had shot my third mate was snapping an empty gun at
me as he went over the side into the sea. I stopped the engine, and
jumped for him.

He dived, but as he came up I hit him over the head with a boat hook
that lay handy, and before he sank I had caught the hook into his
collar and dragged him alongside.

Then I lifted him into our boat, and as his face came close to mine I
recognized him as the former "wife" of the doctor, the robber who had
masqueraded as a woman and who was evidently the electrical expert of
the pair.

I passed a lashing upon him quickly, and then went to Smith. My poor
friend and shipmate was gasping in pain, lying upon the boat's bottom.
I examined him, and found two wounds, one through his arm and another
through his chest, both bullets being from a high-powered automatic and
having passed cleanly through.

In a few minutes I had anchored the wreck of the launch which had
swamped to the gunwales, and was running for the fort at the Hook,
where I arrived fifteen minutes later, with Smith unconscious.

Here I turned him over to the surgeon and, getting help from the
officer in charge, I ran quickly back to the buoy. The dead body of the
doctor was still lying in the swamped boat, and the men removed it.

Then I got a pull upon the drag line, and was not surprised to find it
caught to something very heavy. Three men helped me haul it in, and it
came slowly.

A bight of chain appeared upon the surface. We caught hold of this,
and hove it in also. At each end were iron boxes weighing at least two
hundred and fifty pounds each. In spite of our misfortunes I gave a
yell. It was the gold at last.

Young Simpson told how it was done after he had been turned over to the
authorities. He had already been sentenced for the crime, and would
therefore not have to suffer again, having served his term.

He told glibly how they had done the job during the two hours they
had after the treasure room was closed and the ship warping out and
down the channel. The time had been ample, and the rest of the voyage
was just to cover up, to throw us off the track. They had the cutting
outfit in the trunk that had weighed so heavy, and had taken it away to
throw overboard, which they did long before we came near them in the
schooner.

They had kept the trunk, but when they saw we were after them they
had sunk it with a buoy, knowing that we would probably see it in the
smooth sea and were aware of the old smuggler trick of sinking treasure
down at the end of a fine line and small mark.

Then they had decided to make no resistance, believing rightly that
the easiest way was the best. They had taken their sentence based upon
the circumstantial evidence in the case, and they were just about to
get their treasure when we nabbed them. They had originally intended
to get it in their schooner at their leisure, but we had stopped that.
The location of the buoy at the turn of the channel marking the run to
sea was a safe place to drop anything. It would hardly be disturbed for
some time.

The heavy, small iron boxes had been made purposely for the work, and
the chains connecting them had been long enough to cover fifty feet, or
cross enough space to insure picking it up without delay when dragged
for.

The old man smiled when I reported for duty, but was sad at the thought
of our young third officer, who would be an invalid for many days.

"They are going to give him the first mate's berth in the new ship to
be out next season," said he, "and I'm mighty glad of it--he deserves
something."

"That's correct--he sure does, he worked hard, and took risks--and
Smith is a good man anywhere, a good navigator also. But did you hear
anything about me?" I asked.

"Sure; you're to stay right on here--chief officer, but they're going
to hand you one thousand dollars for taking one hundred and twenty-five
from the bottom--don't that satisfy you?"

"Mighty well indeed--mighty well indeed," I replied. "Shake, captain."



THE JUDGMENT OF MEN[A]


I had rowed in for fresh beef. The weather was cold, the water rough
and when Wilson asked permission to go up town to get tobacco, I let
him go and made my own way to the ship-chandler's, where we men of the
sea usually bought our supplies and sometimes spent an hour or two
discussing primage freights and other things pertaining to shipping.

There were two big five-masters lying just outside of us in the
channel and their masters were known to me. One of them had picked me
up at sea from a derelict and the other was Bull Simpson, well known
on the coast. Simpson was much given to gregariousness. Johnson was
companionable, but quiet, and I knew they would be in Jackson's store
that morning, for they would clear the next day.

The day was in midwinter. The gloomy sky whipped by the nor'wester
showed signs of snow. How one hates snow at sea! The nasty white stuff
making the decks like glass, hiding everything from view. The harbor
was white with the scrape of the cold wind, and the salt water froze
where it struck in spray. Yes, I would go to Jackson's store. The
shipping looked too gloomy to contemplate any longer. I thought of the
frozen fingers handling canvas stiff as tin.

The stove, a ship's bogie, was red hot in the back room. Simpson was
there, long, lean and solemn. So was Johnson there, but he was smiling,
smoking and so glad to be in harbor that it stuck out all over him.
Captain Cone, master of a tramp steamer, sat near and warmed his fat
toes, his pudgy hands red with frost.

"Go back, they're all there," grinned Jackson to me, as I passed the
desk. "Thought you'd gone to sea--sech fine wedder--for gulls--what? Go
back an' set in, Cap; I'll come back for your order presently."

"Hello, you look cool," said Johnson, smiling up at me from his chair.

"Glad to see you--set in," said Simpson, making room for a chair near
the bogie. "Shake hands with Captain Cone of the _Prince Albert_--Cone
has a good tea-kettle for this weather--don't you wish you ran a tramp?
Please? No, I didn't hear that last----"

I bowed to the Captain. A captain of a tramp was something new to us.
We seldom had any but sailormen in the group and British skippers
were always looked upon as a rarity. Still they were always welcome.
Cone stuck out his pudgy hand. I squeezed the fat fingers until he
winced and withdrew them. I never cared for pudgy-handed seamen--just
prejudice, a meanness, but it couldn't be helped. We can't help
everything, we must be human, and Cone took it good-naturedly--was way
above such things. He showed it by spitting voluminously at the bogie
and remarking it was very cold to go to sea.

Simpson didn't like it at all. He showed it, grumbled something about
Yankees and stiff-necked folks, then subsided while I lit up and gazed
complacently at Johnson. We talked of various things until Cone rose,
buttoned his coat and went into the office to fill his order. Simpson
glared at me for a moment.

"What's the use of being so damned short with the Britisher? What's he
done?" he asked.

"It's what he hasn't done I object to," I answered. "Stupid, heavy
brute----"

Captain Cone came back and extended his hand. "Good-by,
Simpson--good-by, gentlemen--hope you'll have better weather of it
to-morrow."

I noticed that he held out his left hand; it was the left hand that was
so pudgy, so fat and soft. His right hand was gloved and the fingers of
the glove were stiff, straight.

"Good day," I said, rising, "and good luck to you." Johnson nodded also
and the stranger withdrew, followed by Jackson who saw him to the door.

"Wake up," I said to Simpson. "Don't think I meant anything, but these
Britisher tramp skippers are the limit. High ideals! lots of feeling!
Human as a beef and twice as heavy--after dinner. Where did he blow in
from?"

"He came in for coals to take him to Brunswick--he'll load for lumber
there and go back home--hope he'll get a better reception than he got
here--he's a member of the English Masters' Association; you might have
been kind to him," said Simpson.

"Was he the man they fired from the Association last month? Seems to me
I heard of a Cone--seems like he was accused of brutality or something,
lacks humanity--looks like it, anyway," said Johnson.

"Yes, he was fired--yes--by God, he was," snapped Simpson, "and it
was just such judgment that gets lots of good men into trouble.
'Lacked human sentiment'--lacked human sentiment--well, that's a
charge for you! Hell! you fellows get narrower and narrower--I
happen to know Cone, knew him years ago--he was fired for losing the
_Champion_--'lacked human sentiment,' bah! Oh, now you remember him,
heh?"

"Yes, we remember him--the man who lost a fine ship in collision in a
clear night," said I, with something of a sneer. "But that wasn't the
worst of it----"

"Yes, you read the damned papers--you got a fine idea of it all,"
snapped Simpson. The old seaman turned and spat viciously at the bogie
as if the poor old stove, red-hot, had done him some grievous wrong.
Then he turned scornfully to Johnson.

"You remember the _Champion_? You know something about her, you ain't
so damned stuck about yourself. I happened to be aboard of her the day
she sailed, talking to Redding, her chief mate--Redding, that was lost
in the _Arctic_--yes, Redding was as straight as a string--and he told
me the details of that accident after he came from the hospital--too
late. He was nearly a year in the insane ward from a blow that smashed
his head, but he told me about Cone.

"Yes, it was Cone who left his wife--so they said--left her, deserted
her and the children. It was Cone who acted in every disgraceful way
the old women tell about, Cone who raised hell and paid the devil
wherever he went, Cone who only got command of the _Champion_ after
pulling shares and playing the game for all it was worth--no, don't
tell me--don't, I say--I don't want to hear about what he did. I'll
tell you how he lost the ship, and you say you'll believe anything poor
Redding said--so would I. If there was truth in any man it was in Dan
Redding--poor devil."

"Yes," I assented, "Redding was all right."

Simpson scorned to notice me. He talked at Johnson, or rather talked
at me through Johnson, over him, and--Simpson could talk, talk like an
Admiralty lawyer with two noggins of rum under his ribs. Jackson came
in and took Cone's vacated chair. He rubbed his hands. Cone had been a
good buyer, had needed plenty of stuff--and he got it at the highest
rates. Jackson approved of Redding also, approved of him for the sake
of memory--Redding had always paid a full bill--never asked rake-off,
_pourboire_, "graft," or other money from him.

"You heard all that stuff about Cone, too," said Simpson, sneeringly at
Jackson; "and I dare say you believe it like a good old woman you are,
but I'll tell you just how he lost the ship--if you believe Redding.

"They cleared at daylight, bound for St. John's--had twenty passengers
first class and about seventy second--no steerage those days. Redding
said the weather was hell and something worse from the time they
dropped the land, and you men know how it is on the coast in the winter
time. The old _Champion_ came across and poked her nose into the fog
bank off Sable Island--bad place? Well, I reckon it is. Bad because you
can't tell where the devil you are and can't keep any kind of reckoning
in that current. That Sable Island bank is nearly as bad as Hatteras
for us windjammers.

"Cone slowed his ship that last morning--according to Redding--slowed
her down to a few knots, made the passengers keep off the decks in
order to have peace and quiet aboard. One old lady didn't like it at
all. She insisted she had a right to go where she pleased aboard--told
the skipper so to his face and dared him to put her below. Some of the
other women folks followed her example--did Cone do it? Well, he just
called his quartermaster and told him to remove the objectionable old
women, told him to carry them below if necessary--and that square-head
did. Yes, sir, he just picked up the leader and carried her off in his
arms while she screamed and clawed him, calling to the men to save her
from the brutal assault.

"Oh, yes, he got a nice name for that. The passengers told how
he acted, told how he brutally made his men remove innocent and
unoffending females--oh, what's the use? He was a brute and they made
it out plain--it was all published in the papers.

"It was along about five o'clock and the sun must have been well along
to the nor'west horizon, tho' of course he couldn't see it in the
fog--that a horn blared out faintly right ahead. The man on lookout
heard it--for it was now quiet on deck--and the siren roared out its
reply. Then he got a faint blow right off his starboard bow, a blow as
if from a small fishing schooner. He kept along blowing regular blasts,
kept along very slow.

"Right out of the setting sun a bit of wind seemed to make. It lifted
the bank enough to show him a four-masted ship standing right into him
not two hundred feet from his bow. She was heeling with the growing
breeze and going about six knots or better with just a white bone
across her forefoot. Cone rang off his engines.

"It is in these moments, you know, that things happen. Had Cone rang
ahead full speed like Chambers did in the old _Lawrence_, rang and
shoved into her full swing, he would have either gone clear or cut
out enough to give her his stern on the turn and probably not sink
either ship. He kept to the rules by British force of habit of abiding
by them--and, well, the _Potomack_, under three skysails and shoving
along with four thousand tons of cargo in her, hit him fair upon the
side while he was swinging to port. The ship's jibboom reached over
and drove a hole through the deckhouse first, poked right through and
ripped off his blowoff pipe, letting the steam come roaring out of
her, and then the heavy forefoot sunk like a wedge fair in her, right
in the wake of her engines. It was the worst possible place to get
it--you know that--right in the wake of the engines and close enough
to the engine-room bulkhead to smash it so it was useless. Then it
cut, shore down under the water line, and there he was with a hole in
him big enough to drive in a trolley car, a hole and nothing but the
forward bulkheads to hold him up--no, he was badly hit, hit right in
the vitals, and the roar of the steam told him plainly that the ship
was going to be put to it to float.

"Then came the usual panic.

"Cone tried to stop it, tried to stem the tide of passengers. His
officers were good, but Redding was hit on the head by a block from the
maingaff vang and while Cone was trusting to him to take charge aft, he
set to work forward to get the boats out in ship-shape and seamanlike
order. His second was a new man--Billings--a blue-nose he knew nothing
about, but a good enough fellow to take charge. He and the third
officer stood the crowd back for a time and got the port boats over.

"You see, it was smooth and there wouldn't have been much trouble, but
the passengers had a grouch against Cone, hated him. The women thought
him a brute and the men had heard so much from them about his private
life, his affairs, his general rascality, they wouldn't stand it any
longer. They rushed it and two were shot, one fell overboard and
another was badly hurt. These were the only casualties--strange, wasn't
it? Only passengers hurt were those who were trying to save themselves
from the brutal and overbearing Cone.

"The _Champion_ settled quickly by the head, her nose getting well
down. This had the evil tendency of lifting her stern so high that the
boats couldn't be handled easily. It stopped the flow of the sea to a
certain extent, but it was too late to do anything to help that now.
The fireroom force came up, they were literally drowned out, forced to
quit, and the engineers came forward and told of the useless steam--not
enough to run the pumps. Then Cone knew it was get away while he could.

"Cone stood on the port side of the flying bridge, stood there and
roared out his orders, wondering why Redding didn't respond to the work
cut out aft. He saw no boats going over where Redding should be tending
to them, and when the crowd finally surged forward he had to let them
come, had to let them get into the boats there. Oh, yes, he was charged
with not holding them back, not being able to command his ship, but
man, he had to let them come forward, it was only the fighting ones who
insisted in getting first places and taking charge that got hurt.

"The _Potomack_ lay to and sent in her boats, sent in four big
whaleboats and one dinghy. The water wasn't rough--any good boat would
live a long time--and Cone let them take off his passengers as fast
as they could. He was well scored for it afterward; they told how he
couldn't do it himself, and if it hadn't been for the _Potomack_ he
would have lost all his passengers.

"When the _Champion_ settled Cone was still standing there on the
bridge, standing there and he knew what it meant to him.

"'You'd better go along, sir,' said Billings, 'we're going in the next
boat.'

"But Cone just looked at him for a minute, just stood there watching
things and saw the last passenger get away.

"'You hound,' the fellow yelled, 'you cowardly rascal--you insulter of
women!'

"You see, passengers get excited in such cases, get to lose their
heads. Cone never even looked at him, never took his eyes from the
settling ship.

"The engineer force had gone, the only men left aboard were the
quartermasters and mates. Cone spoke to Billings.

"'Get Redding and the rest--get in the boat, I'll come along in a
moment.'

"The _Champion_ was settling fast now. The roar of the steam and air
from between decks was deafening. Billings didn't quite get the words,
but he knew he was told to go--and he went. The third officer found
Redding lying with a broken head and dragged him to the side, lowered
him down and started after him. Just as he did this, there was a
ripping noise from below. It was like a tearing sort of explosion, a
rending. Cone had disappeared from the bridge and they waited no longer
but shoved clear. At that instant the _Champion_ surged ahead, lifted
her stern and dropped--she was gone.

"The suction whirled about, sucked the boat first one way and then
another, bringing her right over the foundering ship. Billings saw a
form jammed under the topmast backstay, saw a hand clutching something
white and he reached for it as the topmast went under.

"It was Cone. It was the skipper.

"They hauled him into the boat and he still clutched that thing in
his hand. He had been drawn under, been badly strangled and he was
unconscious, but his hand hold was firm and no one took notice of what
he held. It was the photograph of a woman.

"Billings didn't know anything about him; didn't know but what
the tales told were true--so he took the thing away from him and
said nothing about it; but Redding knew, Redding knew after he saw
it--months afterward when it was shown him--too late to stop the nasty
stories--oh, yes, it was the picture of his wife.

"Of course, Cone was living alone, had many affairs--so they said--and
it would not do to drag a woman into his ugly life. He had gone into
his room to get it--the picture--gone in to get it with that ship
sinking under him, the unsentimental and brutal Cone--oh, well, what's
the use?

"Yes, his hand was jammed between the backstay and the mast and
Billings just got him clear in time--funny, is it? Well, I don't know,
some men wouldn't have been so particular over a photograph, would have
used both their hands to fight clear with--what? But then, that's what
you call sentiment. No, you wouldn't expect it from Cone, wouldn't
expect to find it in a seaman with ruddy cheeks and quiet manner, soft
and a bit fat----"

"No," said Jackson, "you wouldn't expect a thing like that from Captain
Cone--that's right."

"No, you expect sentiment from the thin, poetical, big-eyed, tender
men, the men who slush and slobber it over at all occasions. You find
women looking for it in the tender talkers, the soft-spoken, the
amorous--oh, hell! did you ever see a man who looked the part--what?"

"I've sometimes had my doubts concerning heroes," said Johnson, "but
they are--the real ones--generally most common-looking, most quiet and
unassuming; but that Cone--well, he is a hard dose to swallow, and
that's a fact."

"Well, treat him decently when he comes back," said Simpson.

       *       *       *       *       *

Some years later I met Cone at the dinner given by the Manager of the
Southern Fruit Company to the Captains of the West India fleet who ran
the steamers chartered under contract to fill the winter schedule.
There were as usual many British vessels in the trade, some Norwegian
and a few American, including myself.

Cone had passed entirely out of my ken and this time I took his hand
with the feeling that perhaps I had done the man an injustice by the
human judgment passed upon him. He was a very old man now and his hand
was still in a glove to hide the deformity which the accident had
caused. He looked very much the kindly old-time shipmaster, bright
of eye and vigorous to the last. He sat near me and remained silent
during the opening of the somewhat formal repast. The Manager had been
discussing some subject, for he seemed to wish to follow it at once.

"A thing's either right or wrong," said the Manager didactically, as he
looked over the gathering. He paused for the effect of his words to be
felt. He loved platitudes, although the leading man in his business and
a millionaire. "A thing is either right or wrong," he repeated, "and
a man is either right or wrong. There's a difference between them as
plain as between black and white."

Captain Cone squirmed in his chair. He had listened to this sort of
thing before from the Manager. The Company, the greatest shipping firm
in the whole world, had paid him his salary, given him his liner and
here was the Manager setting forth again against the manner of trusted
employees who should know these self-evident truths. He interrupted.

"In fifty-five years spent knocking about the world upon every sea,
I've come to a different conclusion," said he quietly.

It was so different from the usual applause, the applause which
had already started and which would follow the Manager's splendid
appreciation of the obvious. Several diners--there were twelve at the
table--looked up quickly and wondered at the Captain.

"What--what do you mean?" asked the Manager softly, amazed at the
interruption. He had been coming to a point where he expected to
hurl a smashing argument against the methods of some men who handled
millions, and here he had been held up by a Captain, an employee of
his Company. There was a silence, awkward, impressive--and the old
seaman felt it, causing him to blush through his mahogany tan. He had
committed himself, and he was essentially a modest man.

"I don't know exactly how to explain," said the Captain slowly. "These
questions of human analysis are so very subtle, so elusive--I am only a
sailorman after all, and perhaps I see things differently from the view
taken by landsmen. There is much in the point of view. But it seems
that I am still reasonable, still logical--and I am able to perform my
duties even though I'm seventy."

He paused, passed his brown hand across his grizzled forehead, where
the hair still hung thickly. Then he let it drop slowly down over his
beard and his eyes seemed to have an introspective look. He spoke very
slowly and with considerable hesitation as one not used to the ready
flow of language, words every one of which had a meaning.

"There was a small matter," he continued, "which called my attention
to the human judgment. I don't know how to tell it, but--well, you
remember Jones, Captain Jones, who had an interest in the oil ships?
Yes; well, I was thinking of him.

"Jones was one of the first oil carriers. That was before the Standard
took charge. I had sailed with him as mate long before the war.
He got a great tank ship--lost her. Then came the squeeze of the
Consolidated, then the death of competition--and, well, Jones lost one
thing after another. Froze out. They made him watchman at the office,
made him night watchman, a man who had once run a ten-thousand-ton
oiler, a man who had made them millions by his care and industry. Then
he sank to the gutter and on forty dollars a month he tried to wrest a
living for seven children--four of them girls. You know the old story,
the sordid details. Jones had to take on liquor once in a while. He
would have gone mad without a drunk at least once a month. He figured
that it was best to get drunk than go mad, best for his family. It's
all well enough to talk, for the chicken-souled loafers who preach
to their flocks and then get their living through the generosity of
silly women, to call poor Jones a drunken reprobate, a useless loafer,
because he drank. But the red-hearted men, the men who knew him, knew
what he was suffering, knew what weight was pulling him down. In two
years he never bought a suit of clothes. He never spent anything
upon himself--except at certain times he felt that he must undergo
relaxation, must get away from himself--then he would get drunk, very
drunk.

"His wife--oh, yes, he had his wife. She knew him, knew what he had
gone through--she saw he got enough money for rum, helped him, stinted
herself, slaved, worked--well, she did everything a poor, high-spirited
woman could do."

Cone paused, took a drink, a mere sip, from his glass of water,
then pushed it from him. The looks of the guests annoyed him. A
prohibitionist from Maine glared at him and made him uncomfortable.
There was a half-suppressed sneer upon the lips of the Manager, but he
was a gentleman--and a host.

"Yes--I was speaking of his wife," he went on. "She helped him, held
him up with a mighty soul, a tremendous strength for a woman. All
through the dark and gloomy life he led, sleeping in the daytime and
wandering about the desolate offices at night, she was always ready,
always willing to lend a hand, steadying, guiding, always sound in
judgment and above all ready at all times to make any sacrifice for
either him or the children--yes, she was a great woman--may the God of
the sea hold her gently where she lies in its bosom--dead? Oh, yes,
she died long ago. The worst of the affair came about when Jones fell
sick. He finally broke down under the awful strain, couldn't stand
it--no, the liquor didn't hurt him, he was used to that. It was the
despair, the dead weight of crushed hopes, the knowledge of an old
man unable to make good against the tide, the tide which was sweeping
his children down to hell. The oldest girl was twenty and forced to
work at a place where--well, never mind, it was the same old sordid
story of a young woman staying, sticking out at a place where it was
impossible for her to come out as she went in. Ruin, and hell for her
afterward--convention, we call it--but what's the use? She was the old
man's favorite, and it hit him very hard, very hard indeed.

"Yes, I remember it very well. Poor old Jones, captain of a
ten-thousand-ton ship, owner of a quarter interest in one of the
biggest commercial enterprises in the world--six children and a wife
starving on forty dollars a month and the seventh child--yes, it
was pretty bad, especially bad for Jones, for he had done nothing
to deserve his fate, nothing but fight a combination which knew no
mercy. The relentless, implacable cruelty of corporations is well
enough known to you gentlemen. Their laws are like the laws of
Nature--transgress them and you must die. The laws of life are supposed
to be just, therefore it is probable that those of some corporations
are so likewise--I don't know. But they had smashed Jones. Crushed him
down--yes, there he was at forty a month, trying to forget, trying to
do something to keep his family alive, and then under the heaviest
strain he broke one day--broke and went down."

Many of the guests at the Manager's table had now resumed their
poise. Some at the farther end resumed conversation, overlooking the
story-teller and wondering a little at his bad form to monopolize the
talk of the complaisant dinner humor. But some of the men nearest
the Manager still listened and the old Captain watched them with his
dark bright eyes, eyes which seemed to sparkle like diamonds in the
light. They were the eyes which had pointed the way to many millions
of dollars' worth of cargo, many thousand passengers, and they watched
over them through many a wild and stormy night upon the bridge of his
ship in mid-ocean where the mind has much time to ponder over the
methods, the ethics of the commercial human.

"I found him at the hospital," went on Cone. "He was shaky, but he
fought his weakness back and went home at the end of two weeks to find
his wife down with pneumonia and the house full of famished children."

Cone stopped speaking for a moment and gazed across the table at the
polished buffet, seeming to see something in the mirror back of it. The
Manager looked up, saw his gaze and spoke:

"I know there's lots of hardships, Captain," said he, "and I don't lay
it all to the drink habit. Let your glass be filled--what?"

"Pardon me," said the old seaman. "I am old and forgetting my
story--I was just thinking a bit. This is not a temperance lecture at
all--no, no, that is not what I was thinking of." And he gazed at the
prohibitionist across the board who was fingering his napkin.

"No, the thing that I was coming to is this. Jones found things in a
desperate condition at his home. He must have money. It was an absolute
necessity to have medical attendance at once for his wife, and he
dreaded the free ward of the hospitals--he had gone into one once
himself and knew what it meant. He must have money for his children."

"A man might steal under those conditions without being very bad,"
interrupted a man sitting next to him.

"That isn't what he did," said the old Captain. "He met a friend on
the street while on his way to a pawnshop--and the friend heard his
tale. His friend was a bank messenger, at least he was carrying the
proceeds of a ship's cargo in a bag. You see, in those days, captains
were allowed to collect freights at certain points, being in the
companies, and these moneys were carried aboard the ship until she
reached her home port. Sometimes there were many thousand dollars. This
friend had been with Jones in the old days and he knew his history.
The money he carried was freights from an oil ship just arrived. There
was fifteen thousand dollars of it in gold, and it was the property of
the very corporation which had squeezed Jones and ruined him. Well,
the friend did the obvious, did the human thing. He opened the bag
and gave Jones just five hundred dollars in gold and then went along
to try and fix the matter up with the firm--it required lying--that
is bad; it required many other things which we will not discuss here,
but they are eminently bad, bad as they can be--and by dint of lying,
and pilfering, and--well, the friend made good the loss without ever
getting found out--yes, a horrible example, I admit. He made good the
five hundred and no one ever knew he was a thief. No one knows to this
day--except--anyway, Jones saved his wife, and at the end of the money
the friend helped him to buy into a schooner and he got command. They
paid twenty-five per cent. in those days and he pulled out making
enough to save the rest from abject poverty."

"But you don't mean you approve of that fellow, that thief who
appropriated other people's money, his employers' money, do you?" asked
the Manager in amazement. "The thing for him to have done was to have
gone to the firm and stated the case, told of the poverty of Jones,
told how he should be helped. No human being would have refused him."

"On the contrary, the friend did just those things--afterward--and
as I said before, corporations know no laws but their own. They are
relentless as the laws of Nature, as implacable as the laws of health.
Go where there is cholera, get the germ into your system, and you
will understand what I mean. No human feeling, no sympathy--nothing
will save you but your own powers of resistance. You will necessarily
die unless you can stand it. Most people die. And it may be right to
have things this way--I don't know, I don't set up as a judge; I am a
sailor. But I am human--and I don't hate my neighbor, I don't look upon
my friend as my enemy. Perhaps I am wrong. Still the thief in this case
suffered much. He was for years afraid of being found out. That shows
the whole horrible futility of it all. He suffered more than Jones,
for Jones knew from where the money came, knew it was money which by
his judgment should have gone to him anyway. Jones refused to pay it
back and wanted to publish the fact that he had gotten even with the
corporation to the extent of five hundred dollars.

"Of course, he didn't do it. The friend persuaded him not to, and when
he went into the coaster he forgot to talk about it even when under the
effects of his drinks.

"You see, it was about that time the insurance troubles came about.
Marine insurance had a tumble owing to the loss of several heavy
ships and other matters not worth discussing now. You were badly hit
yourself, I believe,"--and the old Captain nodded to the Manager,
who smiled acquiescence--"you told me at the time--if I remember
rightly--that one more vessel gone and you would go to the wall.

"The friend owned shares in that schooner, owned more than half of
her, and he it was that let her go out, made her go to sea after
her policies ran out. He would not stop her carrying, for it meant
laying her up and Jones would have to go ashore again until things
straightened out. It was the hurricane season and she had to go light
to Cuba.

"I remember something of the affair, for I happened to be on the dock
when she sailed. Jones was standing aft giving orders, and his wife,
with her three daughters, were below in the cabin. It was a pretty
picture of commercial life, a picture of a man doing his work with his
family or part of it around him, and I almost envied him his place.
What does an old liner skipper ever have of domestic life? Never gets
home, never sees his wife but once or twice a year, and the company
never lets her go aboard the ship at all if they can help it. Well,
she sailed out that August day, and the next thing we heard of him was
that his schooner was driven ashore during a gale. She rammed up on
one of the Bahamas, Castle Rock, I believe, and then broke up. Some of
the crew and his daughters were saved--he and his wife went down--lost
before they could get them ashore.

"And so there it is--did the men do all that was right or did they
do all that was wrong? That's the question. Where is the line of
demarkation, where does the wrong leave off and right begin, or how is
the mixture to be sifted down? We go by rules, we must play according
to rules or the game becomes chaos. But do the rules always hold, do
they always cover every emergency? I don't know, but I believe there is
bad, or what is called bad, in all men, also there is good--it depends
upon the man--not the rule."

There was a long pause. The Manager gazed curiously at his guest.

"You say the schooner went ashore on Castle Rock?"

"I said--well, it was somewhere about there, I don't know exactly,"
replied the old seaman, annoyed.

"There never was a wreck on Castle Rock that I ever heard of," said the
Manager, eying the old Captain curiously, "but there was the _Hattie
Davis_ that was lost on the Great Inagua Bank--she wasn't insured, I
believe."

"Yes, she was lost on the Great Inagua," assented the Captain, leaning
back, as though the story were closed.

"You had a large interest in her, I believe," said the Manager slowly,
"and I recollect, now, you lost all in her----"

"The light was not so good as it is now," quickly put in the old
seaman. "It used to show only in clear weather--and it's almost always
clear through the passage--I remember how the passengers used to be
glad when we entered the passage coming up from Cuba in the old Panama
ships--rough in the tumble off Maysi when the wind holds nor'east for
a spell."

The Manager was gazing at the old skipper strangely. Then he suddenly
turned and started to discuss other matters with his guests. The
dinner went along without incident and afterward we arose to go to the
smoking-room for our cigars.

"Come along with me, Cone," said the Manager, "I have a new orchid I
picked up I want to show you; you always liked flowers, you know."
Afterward I passed them and overheard the Manager saying in a low
tone--"Well, you always had a hell of a reputation, Cone, anyway,
but under the circumstances--well, there might be some sort of
justification. You are too full of that damned sentiment for any
business whatever. Still, I'll admit that it isn't so much what a man
does that matters--that is, it doesn't matter so much as _how_ it is
done--and _who_ does it."

And so this was Cone? This was the master who had earned a reputation
for some very queer things as seamen see them. I remember the old days,
the words of poor old Simpson who had long gone to the port of missing
ships. Sentimental Captain Cone, stout, grizzled, bronzed, the man who
lost his hand holding to the picture of a wife who had been false to
him and who had accused him of many things too hard to print. It was
strange.

I suddenly felt I would like to see Simpson, to acknowledge he was not
so far wrong after all.

"The judgment of man is not good," I said in answer to some question
relative to nothing concerning Cone, and with this platitude upon my
lips I went home.



ON GOING TO SEA


We sat together upon the quarter-deck under the awning of the _Harvest
Queen_. My own ship lay in the berth opposite, and I had come over for
a quiet smoke with Captain Large. He sailed in the morning, and was
bound for Frisco around Cape Horn. I would not see him again for a year
or two--probably never; but he and I had sailed together and I had been
his mate. We talked of things, confidences, the talk of old shipmates
who know each other very well, and who are passing to know each other
as memories. I had shipped five apprentices, two sons of prominent men
in the shipping circles of New York, and I wondered at the outcome.

"I never take them any more," said Large. "I took one out of here a few
years ago, and--well, I don't care to repeat the job."

"But the boys are good--signed on regular--what can they do?" I asked.

"I don't know, but I'll tell you what one did in the _Wildwood_ when I
took him to China. I don't know how to explain it. The strangeness of
it all, the peculiar development that came about under seeming natural
causes--hereditary, you will say, and perhaps that is right I have
often studied it over, often lain awake in my bunk wondering at it all,
what peculiar ideas grew in a brain that was almost human--almost,
for when you think of what he did you cannot believe he was quite so,
even though his father was the President of the Marine Association and
had commanded the best American ships in his day." The old skipper sat
quiet for some minutes and seemed to be thinking, studying over some
problem. His cigar shone like a spark in the warm night, but the smoke
was invisible. I waited. Apprentices were new to me. I had not had much
chance to study the training of youth. My own way had been rough. I had
at last gotten my ship after a life of strenuous endeavor and often
desperate effort, and I wanted to learn all I could. Men I knew. I had
handled them by and large from every part of the globe, and discipline,
iron discipline, was a thing my ship was noted for. She had a bad name.

"You see," said Large, his deep voice booming softly in the night,
"there is something intangible that a human being inherits from his
forbears. We look at the successful man as a target to aim at, an
idol we point out for youth to emulate. We don't always analyze the
greatness. A successful man is often so from the stress he puts upon
others. He will not stay in equilibrium. He keeps going on up, up
beyond the place his own production entitles him. He becomes predatory,
but unlike wolves or felines he preys upon his own kind.

"When President Jackson of the Bengal Line asked me to take Willie,
his son, I did so with the feeling that it was an honor conferred upon
me, the captain of one of the ships. Jackson had earned his position
by his own efforts and fought his way up to the top. I remembered him
well enough when he was a master, but he was now President of the Line.
He had a very sinister reputation in the old ships, but that was all
forgotten now.

"Willie came aboard looking like a physical wreck. He was a slight
youth of fifteen, stoop-shouldered, pale of face, but with the eye
of his father, and the peculiar settling of the corners of his mouth
noticeable in the old man. 'Be sure you bring him back safely,' said
his father, giving me a look I long remembered. 'Be sure you take good
care of him--and bring him back.' I didn't quite know what he meant. I
don't yet; but I know why he said it. I began to think of it before we
were at sea a week.

"Yes, he was only a boy, a mere lad, but he was all of his father--his
father as we remembered him in the South Sea. Degenerate? He was the
ablest lad of his size I ever saw. He stood right there on the main
deck the day we went out and took little or no notice of him while the
tug had our line. He was signed on, mind you, signed on regular, so
as not to excite the comment of 'pull.' Hell! why do they send boys
to sea when the shore is the place to train them? He stood there and
saw me looking at him, thinking of the words 'be sure and bring him
back'--yes, I would.

"'Say, Cap, dis is fine. Let's put de rags on her an' let her slide.
I wants to see her slip erlong--t'hell wid towin', says me,' and he
came up the poop steps on the starboard side to chat with me--a thing
no one, as you know, can do aboard a ship without a reprimand. Every
one heard him talking to me. He yelled it out in a shrill voice--yes,
talking to me, the captain, on the poop. 'See here, young man,' I said
to him, 'you mustn't talk to me while I'm on deck. Go down on the main
deck, and when you want anything, you ask the mate--he will talk with
you or get you what you want--you understand? It's not the thing to
ever speak to the captain of a ship without permission.'

"'Aw, fergit it, cully! Don't youse make no mistake erbout me. I spoke
fair an' civil to youse, an' if youse don't want to answer you kin go
to hell, you stuck-up old fool! D'ye git that right?' he said shrilly.

"Well, you can imagine what that sounded like to the men. Twenty of
them were grinning and both mates aghast. I was the master, a man known
the world over as a 'driver.' There was nothing to do but take the lad
in hand at once.

"'Take him forward and rope's-end him,' I said to Bowles, the second
officer, a man weighing two hundred pounds and a 'bucko' of the
strongest type. You remember him, the toughest mate afloat?

"But Willie looked up at me with a sneer.

"'You try it, you sea loafer. I'll sweat youse fer it if youse do. You
ain't de whole thing aboard here. Youse don't know me, I guess.'

"I had to do it. The affair had gone too far. Bowles grabbed him by
the collar and lifted him off his feet, and he let out a scream like a
wildcat--a most unearthly shriek. Bowles whipped him good and hard,
tanned him so he could scarcely sit down; but he just cursed and swore
at the officer, telling him what he'd do to him afterward. He got an
extra lick or two for this. Bowles paid no attention, but went back to
his station to attend lines. Half an hour later he was standing at the
rail when I saw a form shoot out of the galley door and drive a long
knife into his back. He sank down without a word, and Willie stood over
him ready for the finish. The mate knocked him down with a belaying pin
before he could kill.

"It was a terrible thing, an awful state of affairs beginning within
five minutes after the tug had let go. It was uncanny. A young boy
doing such things aboard a ship. I would have put him ashore at
once, but remembered the articles he had signed and the words of the
president of the line. I hesitated and the opportunity was lost----"

"I would have made another," I interrupted. "I would have sent the
young villain to prison at once. No good could possibly happen from
such an agreement, no good come from a horrible little devil like that."

"I don't know. I don't quite know yet what to make of it all.
According to the usual rule there could be no good from a boy who
would deliberately commit such a crime; but we men who know life, the
real life, know that rules are not good to follow. You know that. I've
tried to figure it all out, but there is no answer, no accounting for
the strangeness of character that develop under certain conditions. We
tied Willie up while he was unconscious from the blow of the pin, and
instead of putting Bowles ashore we endeavored to bring him around. I
took him aft and sewed up the cut. It was an awful wound, but Bowles
was a very strong man. It took a month before he could get about the
deck again. We had run clear to the equator.

"In the meantime Willie had had another run in, and I had him brought
aft to have a little talk with him, to try and explain to him how a
ship must be run, the iron discipline and the custom of the master not
to associate with any one, either boy or man, from forward.

"'Aw, cut it out, cully--cut de langwidge! It don't go none wid
me--see? I comes aboard dis ship an' gets it in de neck de foist round.
Den I slings inter de bloke wot does the trick--'n by rights I ought
ter take a fall outer youse, Cap--'n I've a good mind to do it, too.
Dem sea tricks don't go none wid me.'

"'But don't you know I could hang you if I wanted to? Don't you know
my word is law here? I am in absolute command. If you don't follow the
rules of the ship I'll have to punish you severely.'

"'Nothin' doin', Bo, nothin' doin' at all. Youse kin cut all that sort
o' talk out when youse chins wid me--see? Say, Bo, whatcher take me
fer, anyways? Er "come on," er what? Whatcher t'ink I am, anyways,
hey? Go tell de little choild stories to yer gran'mother--don't
spring dem on me, don't try to hand me nothin' funny--I'm a MAN! An'
don't youse t'ink youse kin take de call of me, neider, Bo, fer youse
makes a mistake mixin' it wid me! I'm a fightin' MAN--me fader'll
tell youse dat, an' dat's why he sends me wid youse when I might
be goin' to school. De old man is a lulu, an' I am his son, Bo, a
son of a dog--nothin' yaller in de breed; 'n if youse t'ink you kin
razzle-dazzle me you'll sure fall down. Youse take dat from me, Bo!
D'youse git it straight?'

"'I'll turn you loose if you'll promise to do the right thing from now
on,' I said.

"'Aw, no, Bo, I don't have to promise nothin'. Youse ain't got me right
yet. I ain't no child. What de hell's the matter wid youse, anyhow?'

"'All right, then, you'll stay locked up until the end of the voyage
and then I'll turn you over to the police, and----'

"'An' you'll pay like hell fer that 'f I does. Youse see!' he snarled.

"Well, what could I do? What would you have done under the
circumstances? The boy was not afraid. I knew his breed too well. I
knew his father. He would not suffer the smallest infringement of what
he believed to be his rights. He would resist to the death. He had
gone with a gang of young ruffians and had developed a certain sense
of what he believed to be right. He saw no law but that of absolute
equality; and there is no such thing. He was at fault. It was absurd
for men who ran a ship whose name was 'hard' to allow a little boy to
take charge, a little fellow not weighing a hundred pounds. I decided
to give him a real whipping--a whipping that would make a permanent
mark in his memory. I hated to think of it--hated to really believe
it was necessary, for there is nothing so horrible as whipping a
man--and the lad was a man in his own opinion. There is absolutely
nothing so soul-killing, so fearfully degrading. I prefer the bloodiest
fighting always to the cold-blooded lash. I have seen men lose their
self-respect under the degrading stroke of the lash; and a man without
self-respect had better be dead. I studied the case and remembered his
father. He was a small man physically--I never knew a big man make a
good seaman; but he could take charge of a ship, no matter what kind of
creatures were forward, and he never spoke but once in giving an order.
The father had the same idea in regard to right and wrong--he never
forgave one, never forgot. Yet he had been a staunch friend of mine. He
had many friends who swore by him--and he was always to be relied upon,
you could always count upon him no matter what the cost to himself in
any emergency. It was his idea of duty--and he feared nothing at all.

"It was just a week later on a hot day when I had gone below to work
the noon sight that I became aware of a pair of eyes looking at me from
the top of the companionway, and as I looked up I gazed right into
those of Willie; but it was along the blue barrel of my own forty-five
caliber six-shooter. The gun had always been hanging close to my bunk
head--ready for emergencies.

"'Bang!' The shot came without a second's warning. The bullet tore
through my arm. I sprang through the bulkhead into the forward cabin
just as the second shot ripped me across the neck. I was rushing for
the doorway to the main deck and the third shot threw splinters in my
face as it hit the edge of the door. Willie was coming right along
behind me, and firing as he came--and I--well, I confess it, I was
running for my life. I heard his yell of derision, a shrill scream----

"The mate heard the firing, and as Willie came through the doorway he
kicked him in the back and knocked him over. Then he jumped upon him
and stamped all but the very life out of him by driving his boot-heels
into his face."

I shivered with the intensity of the tale, the horror of it all. The
old man sat silent in the gloom and the spark of light from his cigar
end flared and faded as he drew upon it. He was thinking of the past. I
waited.

"Well, what was I to do? I was a man, a ship master, and here I was
with my arm shattered by a heavy bullet from a mere boy--or devil! What
could I do?

"Yes, then I whipped him--whipped him until the men turned away. I will
not tell you of it--it was too horrible.

"It was four weeks before I could get about the deck from the effects
of that pistol shot. I had little medicine aboard. There I was limping
about with a broken arm, and there was Bowles limping about with the
tendons of his back cut through. It was awful. The men grinned. Yes,
the men grinned at us. I had an extra padlock put upon the stateroom
where Willie stayed, and he was kept tight after that.

"At the end of a month Willie was all but dead. The terrific heat,
the gases from the cargo and the close confinement told upon his weak
frame. I saw that he would not last much longer. He would die in the
ship, and I remembered the words of his father--'bring him back; be
sure and bring him back!' There was an old man in the crew named Jim.
He was half fish and the rest salt and rope-yarn. He offered to take
the boy in hand and try to train him. I let him have a chance, always
having him close at hand to stop any trouble with a pair of irons. And
when he turned in the boy was locked up again. But there was no talk
of doing right, no promise to be fair or obey orders from the little
chap. I saw he would break out at the first opportunity and refused to
give him one. I had old Jim read the Bible to him every day to see if I
couldn't get him interested in religion. He liked that part of the Old
Testament where it is especially bloody and deals with the desperate
fighting of men, but when it came to other parts he lost interest.

"'Say, cull, do youse believe dat yarn erbout de whale--say? Aw, gwan!
don't spring nothin' funny on me, Bo. Gimme some of de hot stuff or
cut it--see? Dat kid David was de stuff! Gimme some more o' his work,
or let it go at dat. He might have hove de rock an' hit de giant in
de neck--but I doubts it; but maybe so, maybe so. Dat giant warn't
no bigger'n Bowles, I reckon--'n I c'u'd do fer him easy enough, as
youse know. Yes, I c'u'd a dun up dat giant all right wid any sort er
weaping--knife or rock--I'm a sort o' giant killer myself----'

"'You ain't got de nerve to do nothing like that, boy. Shut up and
listen!' said Jim.

"'Say, Bo, don't youse make no mistake erbout me noive. I got de whole
gang of youse beat to a gantline. I c'u'd stick youse all back in de
lazereet an' not half woik. Aw, say, Jimmy, youse ain't got me measure
quite right--see? Guess onct more, old boy; but go erlong an' read some
more of de fight to me. I likes it all right.' And so they would chat
together and I would listen to try and fathom the boy's mind. It was
peculiar. And yet under it all was that vast ego, that immense regard
for the opinions of others--not alone himself--he was too young yet,
but for himself was the greatest, the self-respect. He was a leader, a
boy with a soul--you may laugh when you think him a fiend, a perfect
devil, if you will, but he was all right in some things.

"I was more afraid of Rose, my mate.

"Rose was a quiet man, a driver, and he had struck down the boy and
beaten him to a jelly. The boy never alluded to it, never spoke of
it even to Jim. That's where the danger lay. I felt that they would
finish the fight when I let the lad loose, and dared not do so for a
long time. Once when Jim had the boy on deck I caught Rose gazing at
him with a peculiar steady light in his eyes. He just stood looking
at the boy for nearly a full minute--then the lad turned and looked
right into his eyes with the same peculiar steadiness--a stare that
was unblinking, yet not strained. Willie had those light eyes, almost
colorless, like his father. So had Rose, and they told each other so
plainly what was behind their eyes that I almost smiled; but it was no
smiling work, even if there was a boy in it. Rose showed plainly that
he would wring the boy's neck at the first outfly, and was regardless
of consequences. Rose was not a man to trifle with, yet when you
remember that I was shot and the second mate cut, there was reason
for the chief to throw out all sentiment. And so I kept Willie under
Jim's care until we reached Hong-Kong. Then the old seaman wanted to go
ashore and take the boy with him, promising not to go near a grog-shop.
You can't trust a windjammer ashore after a long voyage, no matter how
good a man he is. Jim came back to the ship that night the worse for
wear, and told a tale of the boy slipping away from him in the streets.
The man was drunk and I had him sent down in irons. Then I sent out a
call for the police.

"They found Willie, who had wandered off while Jim was drinking. The
boy had walked the streets all night, not caring much about the ship,
and because a Chinaman would not cut off his queue and make him a
present of it, the boy had jumped him with a knife he had procured and
tried to take it by force. The interference of the police was all that
saved the boy's life, for the man's friends helped him hold the lad,
and they were just in the act of cutting his throat when help arrived.
I was almost sorry for the interference, but I remembered the words of
his father.

"Jim being unable to take further care of him for the present, I locked
him up myself and turned in, being tired from the night's work. The
next evening I saw Mr. Rose dragging Willie aboard the ship. How he got
adrift I don't know, but he carried in each hand an oil can, while the
mate, holding him, forced him aboard.

"'Say, Bo, whatcher think I done--hey? Just watch dat junk dere lyin'
in de next dock--see? Aw, chee, dem Chinks is de limit. Dat feller
what got me in Dutch last night is aboard dere, an'--well, you jest
watch him now and tell me what youse t'ink o' me, anyways. I remembers
him, but most all Chinks looks alike to me. Anyhow, I fire her up fer
fair--you watch her--see? Oh, say, Bo, what a pipe----'

"Even while he spoke the black smoke poured from the fated junk. She
burned like a box of matches. She was full of camphor wood and grease,
and she fired the entire dock, burning six other vessels and making it
so hot we were forced to warp into the stream.

"No, I didn't give the boy up. I suppose I might have done so and seen
him hung properly. I said nothing, and Rose was a very quiet man.
The damage he had done apparently took the lad's mind off his former
troubles, and on the way home I let him go back to his watch. He took
to the rigging like a monkey. I will say here he was the best sailor I
had ever seen. There was nothing he could not learn about seamanship.
He would always take the weather earing in a blow and no man dared to
send him in. When Jim was on deck the old seaman kept him under his eye
in case of trouble, and Mr. Rose was always most vigilant. The mate had
determined to kill the lad at the first sign of danger. I tried again
and again to win his confidence, but he seemed to look upon me as his
enemy. He refused to take me for a friend, and my little talks were
futile.

"'Aw, tell it to yer gran'mother,' he would say to me. 'Don't try to
stuff me, Bo. Youse had your innings at that--now fergit it before you
git inter the soup ag'in. I knows youse, an' I ain't done wid youse
yet, either--see? Youse done me dirt--youse done me when I first come
in de ship. I ain't decided just what I'll do to youse yet, but youse
better keep yer eye liftin' fer me. Don' try to razzle-dazzle me none.
I ain't afraid of youse at all. You ain't got de noive to do me--see?
But I got it in fer youse all hunk, now don't make no mistake erbout
dat. I'll let youse off easier the better we gets erlong--see? If we
gets erlong all right I may let youse down easy--if not, I'll kill you
as sure as I breathe, an' that goes as it lays. Do youse git it right?'

"Here was a boy, now sixteen, telling the master of a ship he would
kill him if things were not to his liking. What do you think of it,
anyway? I never could work it out I couldn't lock him up any more for
it would have killed him--and I must not kill the lad--I don't know----

"The whole affair was insane. It was grotesque. But there was my
shattered arm, and there was Bowles limping about--that fire at
Hong-Kong--and I must bring Willie back home. I'm telling you a true
story. I'm telling you of a boy, an apprentice.

"When we struck the rough weather of the high latitudes Willie was
happy. He was worked out to a gantline by Jim, and he was beginning to
run the men a bit. It was amazing and absurd to hear that kid yelling
orders to the men aloft. Slack-away' or 'clew up,' whatever the order
was, and he was very smart. He could beat the best of them to the royal
yard; and he was taking pride in it. His voice was at that stage when
it cracks and goes into a treble, and no one laughed. Even the mate
watched it all with gloomy eyes, never saying a thing, and never even
smiling. And it was amazing how the men obeyed him. If a man failed
to do so, only an apology and the reception of a kick upon the stern
would save him from a fracas, for Willie kept right after them. Yes,
he inherited all the masterly qualities of his father. He was a wonder
at seamanship. One day a dago didn't like the way Willie trod upon his
feet when they were both hauling a brace. They mixed, and it was the
closest shave for the lad. He came out with a bad cut, for the dago
at sea takes to a knife like a babe to milk. That night, while in his
bunk, the dago was slammed over the head with a handspike, and we had
to keep him off duty until the ship docked.

"When we came in Jim brought his charge aft to sign off, as is the
custom, you know, for their slop chest accounts. Willie came up.

"I haven't got much against you, Willie; you owe me for a couple of
plugs of tobacco, but we'll let that go," I said.

"'No, we don't, Bo; youse charge it all up right an' proper. Den I got
a small account agin de ship--which I'll settle right now----'

"But old Jim was too quick for him.

"'Take him forward and keep him in irons until we get in. We'll get
inside before dark,' I ordered. You know how it is when a ship comes
in. The land sharks were there in swarms, but among them was old man
Jackson waiting for his son. They went away hand in hand, the old man
never even speaking to me--I always thought he knew.

"Our cargo was valued at about half a million. It was nearly all
Jackson's, as he owned the greatest shares in all the ships. We docked
and were forced to lay right behind a barge loaded with dynamite,
nearly two tons of it ready for taking out in the morning to blow Hell
Gate rock.

"Bowles had gone ashore with the rest, and Rose had stepped up the
street for a 'first night' off. He was not due until midnight. I always
suspected the second officer or the dago--I don't know, only neither
of them ever showed up again. They both had seen the President of the
line take his son, his young hopeful, away with him. They both had
suffered much from his hands. Perhaps it was revenge--to try to get
even with the father for the son's sins. Anyhow, I had hardly turned in
that night, leaving old Jones, the shipkeeper, on deck, when the old
fellow ran below and told me the ship was afire forward. I turned out
instantly and was on deck.

"The ship was burning like a beacon from the foremast to the t'gallant
forecastle. She seemed to be spread with oil. Jones was seventy and
unable to do much. I ran forward and yelled for help. In ten minutes
the engines were playing a stream upon the ship and a fireboat was
flooding her from aft. Jackson came down on the run to see his vessel
being destroyed and his cargo vanishing in black smoke. He had had
trouble with the insurance, and he was worried. Then while he stood
upon the dock and spoke to me as I stood upon the rail amidships, I was
aware of a small figure near him.

"'Aw, say, Bo, youse better get away from there--cut out, see? There's
powder to blow youse to hell and back right there in that lighter.
Youse ain't got more'n a minute, cully. Better git gay wid de lines.'

"Then I recognized Willie. He had come down to see the blaze and was
calling attention to the thing we had forgotten for the moment.

"'Call de watch, an' I'll lend youse a hand.'

"I called for Jones to slack off the after lines, and then I ran as
far as I could into the smoke and managed to cast off forward, getting
nearly drowned with the engine water. Jackson came aboard and worked
like mad. The stern lines were cast off, but before we could do
anything the ship began to swing right down upon the barge. The slip
was too narrow to get the dynamite past the vessel, and there she was
now surging ahead upon it. She had both blocked the slip and surged
into it. I began to yell to the men standing about to get away from the
place before the explosion. They had crowded about as close as they
could to see the fire, not knowing anything about what was on the barge.

"Jackson rushed aft and howled to the fireboat to pass a line, as the
wind was now blowing her slowly across the slip and right upon the
dynamite. Every one who could understand me began to run. The dock
cleared off quickly. Then, just as I was about to jump ashore myself, I
heard a voice close to the rail.

"'Aw, say, Bo, give me a heavin' line--I kin swim acrost the slip--den
hurry up an' bend de hawser, youse can heave her over easy enough.
Don't get nutty.'

"I saw Willie standing there, and without further ado I threw him the
end of a small line. He jumped in without a word and swam rapidly
across the narrow stretch of water to the other dock. A man on the pier
reached down and took the line from the lad. I had already bent on the
hawser, and it went across lively. Then taking the end to the midship
capstan, I got old Jones to hold the turns while I walked her around as
fast as I could.

"But I was not strong enough to warp a heavy ship across a slip even
in still water. The ship surged ahead slowly in spite of all I could
do, and Jackson grabbed a capstan bar to help. It was a poor chance at
best, but we worked on. I caught a glimpse of a slight figure working
upon the deck of the barge, throwing cases of powder overboard. A man
appeared with him, but I could not take time to see much. The boxes
were cases of about a hundred pounds each, and they were rapidly
going overboard, and with the tide through the dock. Minutes passed,
but nothing happened. We seemed to be getting way upon the ship, and
Jackson swore and strove mightily to save her, with no thought of
leaving even in the face of a terrific explosion. We would have gone
clear all right but for the fact we had our port anchor over and
hanging from the cathead. We had warped the ship clear of the barge,
and her bow swung over, the line being too far aft and the fire and
water too dangerous to work in forward. The fluke of the anchor swept a
pile of boxes--about three hundred pounds---and then came the crash. It
was terrific. The fluke was clear of the ship's hull by several feet,
but it was blown through the deck, the five-thousand-pound anchor flung
like a toy through her side. She shook from end to end. We were all
blown flat, stunned, although we had many feet of solid vessel between
us and the blast.

"When we came around from the shock of the explosion Jackson had the
pleasure of seeing his ship without a bowsprit, her nose blown clear
off, but the fire was blown out. There was not even much smoke left.
The barge had entirely vanished.

"The firemen came aboard afterward, and so did many shipmasters, whose
vessels lay in the vicinity. Jackson met them dumbly. He said nothing.

"'Good thing they got the dynamite overboard quick enough,' said
Captain Smith of the _Sunnerdun_. 'That boy, whoever he was, was all
right. The watchman ran away just before the smash.'

"'What boy?' asked a fireman.

"But it was no use to tell us what boy--we knew, we felt, it all along.

"Yes, that was the end of him. He had tried to save the ship, his
father's ship--and he had done it when men failed--I don't know--I
can't judge him. Old man Jackson left without a word, and I never saw
him again."

The old seaman paused, and the night showed his cigar end flaming
again. I sat there thinking over the tale, the true tale of that boy,
for I knew Large was telling me only facts. It was all very strange,
all like a horrid nightmare the old seaman had suffered from; but it
was not a dream, it was the truth about a boy, just a rough, tough boy
whose ideals had been a bit peculiar. I looked over across the berth
at my own ship, where five boys were already signed on for the voyage
around the Cape, and I began to wonder if I had done a wise thing
to ship them. Then I determined right there to give them some extra
thought and study, to try to fathom what lay behind their "going to
sea."


THE END



FOOTNOTE:

[A] Copyright, 1911, by Doubleday, Page & Co.



TRANSCRIBER'S NOTES:


  Text in italics is surrounded with underscores: _italics_.

  Incorrect page numbers in the Table of Contents have been corrected.

  Inconsistencies in hyphenation have been retained from the original.

  Inconsistencies in spelling and punctuation have been standardized.





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